|City, county at odds again; Hailey voices displeasure |
|Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 9:10 pm |
|By DONNA RYDER |
About 700 homes in the rural area around Union City are in jeopardy of not receiving fire service if the homeowners do not pay the fire subscription fee being charged by Union City.
Union City once had a subscription program, but decided to partner with Obion County last fiscal year when the county was administering a program for the county, with the exception of the residents in the South Fulton Fire District.
The county-wide plan called for residents to pay a $75 fee to Obion County, which was then distributed, minus a 5 percent fee, to the participating departments. But, before the year was over, city officials said the county stopped collecting the fee, thereby breaking its contract with each of the cities.
This left funding rural fire protection on the backs of each of the municipalities once again. Many of the cities have agreed to collect their own fees, covering all residences in their fire district and charging more to non-subscribers if they have a service call.
Unlike some of those fire departments, the Union City Fire Department will not respond to non-subscribers.
Fire Chief Kelly Edmison told Union City city council members Tuesday night that, to date, about 900 residents have signed up for the service, leaving about 700 residences without fire coverage. He said he hopes they are just waiting until closer to the September deadline to pay the fee. The fee should be paid at City Hall by Sept. 4.
Edmison said they are working with the data from the county.
“There are lots of errors in the database,” he said, noting they are making corrections as they go along.
He said if any residents feel they should be covered in the Union City Fire District and have not received a letter that they call the city to confirm their participation.
Union City will charge a $75 per fiscal year fee, which will not be prorated and will remain with the property on which it was paid. The fire fee covers the fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30 each year. The fire response charge has been increased from $500 to $750.
The rural fire coverage is just one area where Mayor Terry Hailey said he feels the city has been done wrong by Obion County.
The latest came just this week when the Obion County Commission approved a county property tax increase only on Union City residents. The inside county tax rate for Union City residents will now be $1.69. The outside rate is still $2.07.
Hailey said Union City’s tax rate is lower because the city did not participate in the county school building program.
“It’s unfair because they raised ours and not others,” he said, adding there is a formula in place and the formula was not followed. “When you raise one without raising the other, I think it is unfair,” he said.
The mayor said Union City is left to do all the infrastructure to bring businesses and industry into Obion County. “We carry the load,” he said. “It benefits everyone, but we’re the only one who pays for it.”
Hailey said the county also did the city wrong on the project for a roadway to Goodyear and it’s taking $90,000 away from the city’s school system. “They’re not going to get that money,” he told the council members.
The mayor said it is not a good feeling when the city is already bearing the brunt of the expenses. He said he appreciates the commissioners who represent the city and voted against the tax increase, but added the county can pretty much do what it wants because the city’s commissioners are outnumbered.
“I think there are things we could do. … We may look at the way we do business,” he said prior to the meeting adjourning.
In other business, after the meeting was opened in prayer by city attorney Jim Glasgow Jr., the council:
• Rescinded a vote from its previous meeting to make Ury Street between Exchange and Main streets a “no parking” area. The no parking request was made by members of Exchange Street Church of Christ, who say it is difficult to use the parking space at the kitchen and to use the parking lot at Ury Street because of the number of vehicles being parked on Ury. A resident whose home faces Exchange Street requested that it not be a no parking area because that is where he parks his vehicle, according to interim Police Chief Perry Barfield.
Barfield told the council the resident has ample parking on Exchange Street and one off-street parking spot. The resident would have additional off-street parking, but has placed a storage shed in the additional space, he said.
Church members say it has not been a problem until recent months when several cars are parked on the street.
The council asked Barfield to get the parties together and come up with a solution that works for both of them.
• Agreed to close Church Street from First Street to the railroad tracks and Perkins Street from Church Street to the Municipal Building from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sept. 15 for CornFest activities.
• Voted to make a contribution to Discovery Park of America in an amount not to exceed $150,000 to pay for a curb, gutter and two lanes of a service road, which will be deeded to the city. Plans call for the road to eventually be five lanes wide. The plans are to be turned over to the city at no charge for the future development.
City manager Kathy Dillon said pavers are already on site and it would be less expensive to have the work done now. It is an allowable action according to the auditor, she said.
Discovery Park has agreed to keep up the mowing and landscape maintenance along the service road, it was noted.
• Was asked by a resident to consider placing a sidewalk along Reelfoot Avenue from the area of Wendy’s to Walmart to make it easier for residents who use motorized scooters and wheelchairs to frequent businesses in that area. The resident said it is difficult for him to get to Walmart and the restaurants there because the only safe way to get there is to ask for a ride as Union City does not have a bus or taxi service.
Ms. Dillon said the resident had questioned her about the matter and she informed him that it was a state highway and the city could not place sidewalks there. The resident did call the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which in turned called Ms. Dillon about the inquiry.
Hailey told the resident he appreciated his coming to the council, but that, unfortunately, it is not a city road. He said TDOT has put a sidewalk along Reelfoot Avenue out to the Coca-Cola plant and it is possible the state might be willing to do the same out to Walmart.
• Learned work is continuing on the railroad tracks in the city after the company had to leave to take care of an emergency situtation. Public Works director Steve Ladd told the council Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is currently torn out, but ready to be paved. He said the College Street crossing has been torn out and a second, unused track was removed. He said both should be completed by the end of next week.
Work will also be done on crossings at Cheatham, Gibbs and Palmer.
Main Street is next on the list and could be down as long as two weeks. The state has to be notified and approve the road closure and detour. The Reelfoot Avenue crossing will be a more “delicate situation” because of the amount and type of traffic which crosses it. It is also a state highway and TDOT will be more involved with it than with the Main Street crossing.
“The citizens of Union City have put up with the railroad tracks being rough long enough,” Ladd said, adding the department has been getting positive phone calls.
“Hopefully, we’re on the road to be completed by the end of the year.” Published in The Messenger 8.22.12