Chief Taylor credits City Board, Water Dept., for commitment to improve fire protection

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Batesville Fire Chief Tim Taylor is crossing off his goals for the department he has headed for decades, and early this month he was able to mark off a major accomplishment when he reported to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the Mississippi State Rating Bureau has lowered the city’s fire rating from five to four.

“That was a big goal for me, to get us to a four,” Taylor said. “It was something that I personally really wanted. When we got the results from our inspection it shows we set well into a four, about halfway to a three with our grading points.”

Now, Taylor said, he’s working for a three. This reduction in fire rating should help homeowners see a small reduction in their premiums, but will have more significance for commercial property.

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Batesville’s rating is now equivalent to that of many larger municipalities in the state, including Oxford, Tupelo, Madison, and others.

“This puts our city in a more competitive position for economic development if nothing else,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s a tipping point or not, I don’t know, but suppose an industry is looking to locate in Oxford of Batesville then we sure aren’t going to be ruled out for fire protection.”

This is the third reduction in recent years for Batesville, and Taylor is quick to point out the goal was reached with a team effort.

“The board of aldermen have been very good to the fire department and made sure we got the equipment we needed, and the people we needed to make this happen,” Taylor said.

The three main factors for the drop in rating were increased manpower, fully staffing the new station, and better distribution of water throughout the city. The new Station 1, which replaced the old unmanned station behind City Hall, gave Batesville three fully staffed stations covering all areas of the incorporated limits.

“My hat is off to the Water Department and (Superintendent) Rodney Alewine,” Taylor said. “In all my years working for Batesville and being associated with the water supply around town, Rodney has done more to find ways to better circulate the water and has really helped the areas of town that were low.”

Before Alewine undertook the project of mapping the city’s water lines, some areas had low pressure because the proper valves and flow systems were capped, or turned off. Over the years, some valves were turned off during breaks in other areas, never turned back on, and then covered up and forgotten.

Over the course of two years, Alewine and the Water Department has been able to map the system more accurately and move water around the city sufficiently to provide top performance in key areas.

“We don’t fight the water problems like we used to,” Taylor said. “There’s more work to be done on water but we are in the best shape we’ve ever been for fire protection in the city.”

Taylor said he now hopes to see the rating bureau drop Batesville another point before his retirement. It’s a reachable goal, he said, but will require the purchase of a newer 100 foot ladder truck to replace the 75 foot model currently in inventory.

Additionally, the city will need to man three stations with a minimum of 16 firefighters per shift.

“We were averaging seven per shift and bumped up to 12.25 per shift in this last rating,” Taylor said. “We will need to add manpower to reach that full 16 goal.”

Batesville also scores well because of the city’s training facility and the ongoing field and classroom training the department requires of each firefighter annually.

“We train a lot, and we will continue to train a lot,” Taylor said.