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Obion fire chief drafting plan unique from others in county

Obion fire chief drafting plan unique from others in county

The Messenger 06.20.12

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Obion Fire Chief Jamie Evans will draft a new rural fire membership plan for the Obion City Council, with several unique elements that will distinguish it from rural fire programs being used in Hornbeak, Samburg and Rives.
Evans met with the Obion City Council Monday night to discuss recent developments in rural fire protection.
He stood by his position that Obion volunteer firefighters should not respond to fires outside the city limits, but the council pushed to establish a workable rural fire protection program.
Evans said he would work on a rural fire protection plan, but with some significant changes.
He said his plan would increase the suggested annual membership fee from $75 to $125 per household and would confine the fire department’s rural fire district to the zone established under the 2007 rural fire protection plan. That will eliminate about 14-square-miles from the fire department’s current rural fire district and means the Obion fire department would no longer respond to fires in the Cat Corner area in extreme southwest Obion County.
Also, Evans said his plan would include a provision that would discontinue his fire department’s responding to rural vehicle and grass fires. The Obion fire department would only respond to structure fires outside the Obion city limits, under the plan outlined by Evans Monday night.
Evans explained his department cannot provide adequate fire protection to outlying areas such as Cat Corner, due to the lengthy response time.
“I’ll put together a program for you that behooves all of us,” he told the council.
Under the failed subscription program, Evans said of the 335 potential rural fire customers, 184 of those signed up for the subscription program. Based on that level of response, Evans recommended the $125 annual membership fee to cover the cost of rural fire protection outside Obion.
The council voted Monday night to have the city’s fire department continue responding to rural fires until a new rural fire protection plan can be implemented.
Under such a plan, rural fire members will be charged a basic $500 rate, while those who have not paid a membership fee will still be covered but will be billed a much higher rate based on a FEMA rate schedule. That rate schedule is based on the number of firefighters, the amount of equipment and the length of time spent on a fire call.
A minimum of $2,000 for a fire call would be charged to a non-member, and the fee could climb as high as $10,000 and more for a single fire call. Those who pay the annual membership fee could have their first fire call provided at no charge.
It was during Monday morning’s county commission meeting that commissioners approved a plan submitted by Hornbeak Fire Chief Bob Reavis to establish a standard membership plan for rural fire protection. That plan is being used by Hornbeak, Samburg and Rives.
With Evans drafting a separate plan for Obion, his plan will have to be approved by the Obion City Council and then forwarded to the Obion County Commission for approval.
It was also presented Monday night at the Obion council meeting that the billing cycle for Evans’ plan would likely go into effect in September.
When questioned about how cities such as Hornbeak and Samburg are moving forward using Reavis’ plan, Evans replied, “We don’t have to do what they’re doing. We’re Obion.”
“This is not something that’s mandated by the state,” he said.
One final key issue that was brought up during the discussion of rural fire protection was problems with collecting the charges from rural fire calls.
Evans said there has been “a considerable amount” of outstanding debt from uncollected rural fire call fees. He suggested using a debt collection agency to handle delinquent bills from rural fire calls.
“We definitely need to get a collection agency to chase that stuff down,” council member Bob Anderson said.
It was also agreed that Obion’s fire department will continue to operate under the county’s mutual aid and auto aid agreements.
In other action during the hour and 15 minute meeting, the council:
• Agreed to a recommendation to establish a committee to study the possibility of using surveillance cameras around town as a deterrent to vandals. The committee will consist of Police Chief Royce Aker, Public Works director Randy Evans and Jamie Evans.
• Approved a standard continuation budget to cover the city past the July 1 start of its new fiscal year and approved an amended budget to close out the 2011-12 fiscal year.
• Approved a plan to continue the city’s participation in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
• Was given a detailed update from Aker on work being done to clean up rundown properties around town.
• Was given a report from Randy Evans on issues involving the city’s public works department. He informed the council the city is continuing to lose money on its garbage collection.
In April, Randy Evans said the city was billed $9,278 by Barker Brothers Waste Inc. and only collected $7,600.
“We need to turn that around. We need to be making money,” Anderson said.
There was no action taken on the report, but the council did approved a recommendation to spend $1,800 to repair three fireplugs in town.
Other recommendations from Randy Evans were also approved by the council, including the purchase of three new park benches, spending up to $500 for preparations for the upcoming Junefest celebration, repairing the brakes on one of the city’s dump trucks and establishing rates for having the city mow lots in town.
The city will charge $45 per hour to have a public works employee mow a lot using a lawnmower, and the fee will be $65 per hour if a tractor and mower is used.
Monday night’s meeting was opened in prayer by council member James Depriest, followed by Mayor Glen Parnell leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

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