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Proposed Fire Contracts Up for County Commission Vote Monday Night

By DALE GRAHAM

 

Mayor David McCullough (right), working with the Kingston Springs City Commission in what was a grueling, but apparently successful negotiation. (L-R) Vice Mayor Tony Campbell, Mayor John McLeroy, Craig Kitch and Pam Lorenz.

The Kingston Springs City Commission met in regular session last week. All members were present.

County Mayor David McCullough and County Commissioner John-Paul Wood were in attendance at the meeting to try and negotiate the fire contract being developed after a meeting the night before between McCullough, representatives from the cities, and fire chiefs. The meeting was an effort to come up with contracts that might be approved by the cities and the county commission. It was considered a productive meeting, with all departments wanting basically the same things.

At the Kingston Springs City Commission meeting, commissioners made it very clear that they aren’t happy with the way the entire ordeal has gone since May of 2011 when they received the Fire Service contract cancellation letter from McCullough. Almost immediately after receiving that letter and ever since, they have been trying to encourage progress and cooperation with the county in an effort to avoid finding themselves where they are now: facing no contract for rural fire service when the current one expires June 30th.

McCullough congratulated Kingston Springs and Pegram for “doing a fine job” over the years of providing that service to the people of the 5th and 6th Districts. He has been in meetings all over the county working on the verbiage in the proposed fire contracts that have been on everyone’s agenda this year. There is frustration everywhere.

It was difficult to get started on negotiations Thursday night because of those frustrations, but with the encouragement of City Attorney Larry Craig, the commission began a line by line review of the proposed contract, and before the night was over, with compromise on both sides, they agreed to sign it and send it back to the county commission for approval.

If the contract is approved, the annual service fee to be paid by the county to Kingston Springs for Fire & Rescue Service within the Kingston Springs Rural Fire District is as follows:

July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013 $ 152,440.00

July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014 $ 157,013.00

July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015 $ 161,723.00

July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 $ 166,575.00

July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 $ 171,572.00

The above represents a 3% annual increase.

The contract is for 5 years and also includes an annual payment of $27,500 from the County Fire Chief, (city’s portion of the county’s annual donation of $200,000 to the Firefighter’s Association, which will now be disbursed by the  County Fire Chief).

The Town of Pegram’s contract for services to the rural area also shows the annual $27,500 payment, as well as their annual service fee as follows:

July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013 $ 45,500.00

July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014 $ 46,865.00

July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015 $ 48,271.00

July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 $ 49,719.00

July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 $ 51,211.00

The above represents a 3% Annual Increase.

Pegram’s Fire Contract was to be presented and discussed at the Pegram Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Thursday of this week.

On Tuesday night of this week, Mayor McCullough met with the Budget Committee, and the Emergency Services Committee of the County Commission. “It was brutal”, he said Wednesday morning. After several hours of wrangling in the Budget Committee, and a motion from Dale McCarver (3rd District) to deny all contracts which failed for lack of a second, McCullough made a motion to send the contracts on to the full commission for an up or down vote. Rob Myers (2nd District) made a reluctant second, and the motion passed unanimously.

McCullough expressed his gratitude to Kingston Springs Fire Chief Bubba Ivey, who spoke up at the Emergency Services Committee meeting about how the negotiations have gone, and the efforts McCullough has gone to get the contracts negotiated.

McCullough was thrilled that the cities are on board with the contracts, but has had county commissioners say that they won’t vote for them, “no matter what”. So during the Emergency Services meeting, 6th District Commissioner John Haines made a motion to send the contracts to the full commission for an up or down vote. If it fails, there will be a district by district vote. All commissioners will vote on each contract.

We tried to contact the 4 county commissioners from the south end of the county. From the 6th District: John Haines said he was not sure how he would vote in the combined vote. “It depends on how it comes to the floor”, Haines said. He added that he would vote ‘yes’ for the 6th District contracts. “We have an established track record, we know how much money it takes to collect, to make this work”, Haines said.

6th District’s Jimmy Hedgepath explained his thoughts, both as a commissioner, and as a “hard headed” tax payer. “I want everybody in this county to know where I stand from a commissioner’s perspective, and from Jimmy Hedgepath taxpayer’s perspective”, he said Wednesday. Hedgepath went on to say that he was “no politician”, but that he understood that his job is  “to take what the majority of the people tell me they want to the table, not what I want”. He said that 99% of his constituents that have called, and he’s gotten lots of calls, “they’re telling me that they want this, money is not an issue, they don’t want to be left without fire or emergency services”. He said he will vote yes on both the combined vote as well as the district by district vote, if it comes to that.

Then he spoke as a taxpayer. “I’ve got a problem with the money. I have a problem guaranteeing somebody X amount of dollars for X amount of time when I don’t even know if I can uphold that commitment”, Hedgepath said. He also admitted that he didn’t like the feeling of being over a barrel. “They’ve [the cities] got what we need. We don’t have a Plan B”, he added. He even suggested that the day after the contracts are signed, the county commission needs to start working on a Plan B, “so we’re not back in here haggling with these people in 5 years”, he said. Hedgepath, who (along with the 4th District’s Walter Weakley) hasn’t received a paycheck from the county for the last 2 months because he’s “hard headed” and refuses to sign up for “direct deposit” with the county. He see’s himself as a “middle man”, voting for the will of the people, and the people have spoken loud and clear in the 6th District that they want the issue settled Monday night.

Things aren’t so clear for the 5th District. 5th District Commissioner David Davidson said that he was “not happy at all”, about “benchmarks” that were in the Emergency Services contract, but have been taken out in negotiations, and therefore wasn’t sure how he would vote Monday night. He said the same thing applied if the contracts were taken on one at a time. “We’ve got to have these fire departments, there’s no doubt about that at all”, Davidson said. “I just think there ought to be some benchmarks in there, everybody has them”, he added.

LuAnn Engelman could not be reached for comment at press time.

By Monday night the fire tax rate will be firmed up. If approved, Kingston Springs and Pegram can expect a slight increase in what they’ve been paying.

The county commission will be presented with the contracts Monday night when they rejoin their recessed meeting from the 16th. The meeting is held in the General Sessions Courtroom in Ashland City, and begins at 7p.m. with a public forum.

In other Kingston Springs Commission business:

Pete Hiett has resigned from the Kingston Springs Planning Commission, Mayor John McLeroy thanked him for his many years of service to the town. A replacement has no yet been selected.

The Commission unanimously approved first reading of Ordinance 12-001 increasing the maximum limit requiring formal sealed bids to $10,000. There will be a public hearing on May 17th at 7p.m. before the May commission meeting.

They also awarded bids for a new gate at L. L. Burns Park (Access Control Systems, LLC $13,494.00), and repair of the City Hall Complex and Storage Building, (Instar Services Group, $59,684.96) .

They rejected bids for a security system at the Activity Center, (under construction). The bid came in way over budget, and staff will shop it to find a much lower price.

Mike Lee was appointed to the Park Advisory Board and the Tree Board.

The Kingston Springs City Commission meets the third Thursday of each month at the Beck Town Meeting Hall in downtown Kingston Springs.

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