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County to review Mt. Juliet fire protection contract
Nov 22, 2005 12:00 am
November 19, 2005
Members of Wilson County's Financial Management Committee will receive a "briefing" on the details of a 19-year-old fire protection agreement between county government and the City of Mt. Juliet at their Dec. 8 meeting.
District 14 County Commissioner Rusty Thompson, chairman of the finance panel, said Friday he will ask Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings to study the contract and issue a report to the committee.
"What we're planning on doing is asking our county attorney to research the old contract and research our old records and be prepared to give us a briefing at our next meeting on what our current status is in regard to this issue," Thompson said.
The 1986 contract was passed on to the finance panel from the county's emergency management agency committee last week – along with a letter from Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam regarding the often volatile debate over county-funded fire protection inside Mt. Juliet's corporate limits.
The contract essentially granted county fire protection to Mt. Juliet in exchange for equipment, vehicles and a facility leased to the county for $1 per year.
"WEMA (Wilson Emergency Management Agency) uses the Mt. Juliet Fire Hall to cover approximately 78 square miles of territory, of which only 20 square miles are in the City of Mt. Juliet," Elam noted in the letter to Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman. "If Mt. Juliet were to go into the fire protection business, it would have to reclaim its fire hall, and WEMA would then have to build another station to cover the remaining 58 square miles of territory."
To do so, she continued, would cost county taxpayers more than $900,000, "plus the land."
At last week's Wilson County EMA meeting, Elam and District 3 County Commissioner Fred Weston stated the case for county-funded fire protection in Mt. Juliet, pointing to the 1986 contract between the two governments.
The contract also includes a provision that would allow either government to terminate the agreement with 90 days written notice.
And though Dedman noted Elam "got on me pretty heavy" in the six-page letter, the county mayor said pulling county fire engines out of Mt. Juliet is not the answer.
"We don't want to pull it out, but we just need to sit down with some of the Mt. Juliet people and talk about this," Dedman said. "I think we just need to sit down – all of us around the table – and see where we're at and where we need to go."
As of Friday afternoon, Thompson said he had yet to see the contract or Elam's letter to the county mayor. He said the finance panel would not act on the issue until after hearing Jennings' report.
"I think the (finance) committee would be anxious to hear the briefing from our attorney on exactly where we are at this point with that agreement," Thompson said. "I think any speculation on what the county might do would be premature until we know what our current situation is."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.