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County amends new fire contract
May 24, 2006 12:00 am
May 16, 2006 — Seeing a renegotiated fire contract between Wilson County and Mt. Juliet failing to pass Monday night, a West Wilson County commissioner amended the pact at the last minute, ultimately providing fire service to Mt. Juliet nearly for free.
District 10 Commissioner Bill Patton sponsored an amendment to remove the provision requiring Mt. Juliet to pay the county $25,000 for equipment at the single fire station inside the city's limits. The Mt. Juliet resident told The Lebanon Democrat after the meeting he thought the only way to get the contract passed was to remove the provision.
"I didn't think we could get it passed unless we did that, and I want to see it passed," Patton said. "We were not going to pull fire service out of Mt. Juliet at any time … but we did need to get this passed."
Three differences now exist between the previous contract – which county commissioners ended in February – and the one approved Monday.
Most significant is Mt. Juliet's contribution of "no less than 10" volunteer firefighters. The city would be obligated to equip and train them – which Municipal Technical Advisory Service representative Ray Crouch Sr., a fire department management consultant, told Mt. Juliet commissioners last week would cost the city about $3,000 per firefighter.
Also new are time frames listed in the agreement. The previous contract did not have an end date while the new one is set for five years. And, if either party wishes to terminate the agreement, both have a one-year grace period. The former arrangement sported a 90-day grace period.
Patton, however, added a new amendment to the agreement Monday.
The new provision stated the two entities would engage in good-faith negotiations following the results of a study by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service and the County Technical Advisory Service. Crouch advised commissioners the study would continue even without the contract provision.
"There's nothing to stop the City of Mt. Juliet from coming back to the county and renegotiating," District 2 Commissioner Ken Holland said. "The reason … is that nobody in this Commission is a fire protection expert … and I think (the study) would point out the strengths … and weaknesses we currently have."
District 9 Commissioner Gary Tarpley was the lone vote against the contract, which passed 22-1-3 with District 19's Ross Averitt and District 22's Heather Scott absent.
Tarpley cited concerns over who would be responsible for five- and six-story buildings being built in Mt. Juliet as well as not having enough time to thoroughly review the contract in his vote.
"This contract, in my opinion, wasn't fully understood by anybody in here," Tarpley said. "… I ain't voting on something I don't know for sure what I'm voting on."
District 11 Commissioner Bob Neal proposed an amendment – which ultimately failed – that would have placed responsibility for an ISO rating above five on the government entity which caused the rating to change. This amendment narrowly failed by one vote.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam told the Democrat Monday night the amendments would not require the City Commission to take the contract back to square one – meaning it could be in place as soon as next week if approved by the Mt. Juliet City Commission on second reading.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.