By KEVIN BOWDEN
Kenton city officials were caught by surprise Tuesday night when a routine report by alderman Wade Simpson revealed the city’s volunteer fire department is seriously lacking basic firefighting equipment.
Simpson serves as the city’s fire commissioner, and he provided members of the Kenton mayor and board of aldermen with a lengthy “wish list” of items needed by the fire department.
At the top of the list, according to firefighter Walter Haines Jr., are new airpacks. He told the board the fire department now has two mismatched airpacks that are so outdated he refuses to use them.
Haines said the fire department needs 20 new airpacks, which would cost about $98,000.
That news sent shock waves around the board table at Kenton City Hall.
Several of the board members questioned why the board is just now learning about the airpacks and other items needed by the fire department.
Simpson said he had met with Fire Chief Ed Sims about what items the fire department needs. He described the wish list as “pretty big” and said “these are things we’d like to have.”
For a city that is still struggling financially, the news from Simpson appeared to stun several board members and even the mayor.
Simpson recommended the board work on a five-year plan to properly equip the fire department, but it was obvious the board was interested in immediately acquiring airpacks for the fire department. There was some discussion about seeking a grant to help finance the purchase of airpacks.
A considerable amount of time was spent discussing the lack of firefighting equipment at the fire department, but no immediate solution was reached by the board Tuesday night.
Tuesday night’s hour and 45 minute meeting covered a wide range of items, including the hiring of a new city recorder, bids for mowing and a new air-conditioning unit for the police department, and action on a new emergency radio system for the city.
Based on a recommendation from Mayor Virginia Davidson, the board hired Shayna Jackson as the new city recorder. Camelia Cunningham will step down from the position and will continue to work as a clerk at City Hall.
“She is very qualified,” Mrs. Davidson said about Ms. Jackson. “I think we are very, very lucky to get her.”
The board approved a low bid of $5,100 from Kyle Agee for a new 21⁄2-ton American Standard air conditioning unit for the Kenton Police Department. The new central unit will be installed, along with new ductwork. The Kenton Police Department is currently undergoing a major renovation, with much of the work being done by volunteers.
A low bid of $265 from Tony Lamar was accepted to have the city park and ballfield mowed. Lamar will be paid the $265 each time he mows the two areas.
The board also agreed to enter into an agreement with Samburg that will coordinate the installation of a new emergency radio system in both towns and will cut the cost of the project in half for both municipalities.
The new radio system will forward all emergency calls through Obion County’s 911 agency and, rather than a more than $10,000 pricetag, the project will cost the city $5,111.20.
“That seems to be a no-brainer,” Simpson said. “I say, go ahead and do that.”
“Sounds good to me,” Mrs. Davidson responded.
In other action, the board:
• Tabled a TML presentation and a report on a proposed farmers market until next month’s meeting.
• Was informed by Paul Lancaster that there is a “serious problem” with motorists speeding and running a stop sign at East Taylor and South Hall streets.
“They fly through it (the stop sign) all the time … all the time,” Lancaster said. “I’ve really gotten tired of it. Somebody’s going to get hurt or killed there some day.”
The police department will focus on patrolling that area to address Lancaster’s concerns, according to alderman Angie Choate, the city’s police commissioner.
• Was informed by alderman Faye Sharp, who is the city’s parks commissioner, that work being done to park facilities is going well. She explained the money for the work is coming from a half-cent tax earmarked for the city’s park system.
“We’re in really good shape on our parks and recreation, as far as money,” Mrs. Sharp said. “People need to know we’re not spending one cent out of the general fund.”
• Agreed to proceed with renovation work to the pavilion in the city park and to the monument in the park.
• Voted to eliminate a “floating holiday” used by city employees.
• Discussed state grants that could be used to help finance city projects.
“Right now, there are quite a few grants out there,” Mrs. Davidson said.
• Was given a police report by Mrs. Choate showing the department had 44 calls for service in February and wrote 46 tickets that month.
“I’m really, really proud of everybody over there,” she said.
Her comments bode well for recently appointed Police Chief Kyle Kirk, who just completed his 90-day probationary period with the city.
Tuesday night’s meeting was opened in prayer by alderman Sarah Skinner.
Published in The Messenger 3.7.12