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Fire protection for entire county focus of proposal

Fire protection for entire county focus of proposal

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 10:11 pm
By: Casey Curlin, Messenger intern

By CASEY CURLIN Messenger Intern A proposal to establish a countywide fire department, de-signed by the fire chiefs of Obion County’s municipal departments, is now being considered for approval by the Obion County Budget Committee. The proposal, which has been under review for 11/2 to two years, calls for combining all fire departments in Obion County and states its purpose is to “provide fire protection to all areas of Obion County without discrimination from lack of insurance, lack of subscription, ability to pay or the decision that it’s outside of a fire department’s designated area of operation.” Currently, the eight fire departments in the county — Hornbeak, Kenton, Obion, Rives, Samburg, South Fulton, Troy and Union City, which includes some volunteer and some paid departments — operate individually and have their own policies about covering areas outside of their city limits. Union City, Kenton and South Fulton fire departments charge an annual fee for rural fire protection and neither the Union City or South Fulton fire departments will respond to non-subscribers if there is no life-threatening situation. The proposal to establish a countywide fire department was presented to the Obion County Budget Committee earlier this year and was reviewed again last week. Funding for the countywide fire department is still a topic of discussion for budget committee members, but the proposal gives several different options for acquiring funding, the most popular being a monthly fee added to the electric meters of residents living outside city limits. Commissioner Ralph Puckett, who is a member of the budget committee, said he believes the fee will be about $5 per month. This will only cost about $60 per year as opposed to the current $75 fee for rural fire subscriptions in Union City and South Fulton. Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire noted that no funding will come from taxes. Fire Chief Ed Sims of the Kenton Fire Department said this policy would also be beneficial to each fire department because it ensures each a yearly budget. He mentioned that Samburg’s department thrives on fund raisers and donations and the Rives department’s revenue is primar ily donations and income from a Coke™ machine. “The proposal we made was considerably cheaper than the subscription service and would add a couple of areas where there is virtually no fire service,” said Sims. The county-wide fire department would use the existing equipment and buildings of the current individual departments and each location would receive an annual budget. An example of the disbursement of funds between departments is included in the presentation. The minimum amount needed for the county plan is $550,000 per year and, with a total of $554,000 per year, the Obion County Fire Department would be able to allocate $50,000 to the county fire chief and administration, $120,000 to the Union City Fire Department, $60,000 to the South Fulton Fire Department, $72,000 to reserve for two future stations and $36,000 to each of the other six fire departments and the Obion County Rescue Squad. For the funding each department would have to agree to drop all subscription fees and meet several other requirements, including each having 20 members, two engines and one tanker. Monthly training sessions must also be held and annual budget reports submitted. The funding is also in addition to any city money that the departments receive. The countywide fire department would cover all areas of Obion County, with the closest department dispatched to the fire. The other departments would also be available for additional equipment and personnel. Puckett said he believes the budget committee is in favor of the proposal and after it finishes the annual budget in August its members will discuss the proposal and present it in September to the Obion County Commission, where he says it will likely pass. “If it passes, it will be up to the fire chiefs as to how fast it is implemented,” Puckett said. Sims said, “If the (commission) will pass and fund the proposal, this group will work fast.” Each of the municipalities will have to approve the plan once it passes the county commission According to Sims, similar proposals have been presented to the county commission in the last 27 years but they were never approved. Puckett said the recent incident with the South Fulton Fire Department’s subscription policy has sparked public interest and put pressure on commissioners to approve the current proposal for a county fire department. Published in The Messenger 7.29.08

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