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Fire protection headed to Tuckers
Jun 26, 2006 12:00 am
June 20, 2006 – For Billy Swindell, a long-standing wish is finally coming true.
The District 15 Wilson County commissioner has wanted a county fire station in his Tuckers Crossroads district for years, and Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry McFarland has said it is the area in the county most in need of additional fire protection.
And a new station is finally on the way with $486,640 more dollars appropriated to construct the new station. The newly appropriated funds are in addition to the $300,000 already included in this year's budget for the new station.
It's music to Swindell's ears.
"All I can say is that I'm just very pleased that we're getting a fire hall in the area," Swindell said after the Wilson County Commission voted unanimously to build Monday night. "We've been needing it for a long time, and I'm proud it was approved tonight."
The additional funds appropriated will come from building permit fees, meaning the county will not go into debt to construct the fire hall. In addition, 80 percent of the salaries in the first year of the station will be paid by a federal grant with the amount decreasing each year, Wilson County Finance Director Ron Gilbert said.
Starkton Construction, the Lebanon company which won the bid on the project, has said construction will take a maximum of six months. Gilbert said last week construction will likely start in a month.
The station has been on the drawing board for some time, but was delayed because of septic tank issues.
And while the east end of the county will soon see some relief in fire protection, a remnant of the oft-contentious battle in the West Wilson reared its head.
District 22 Commissioner Heather Scott proposed an ultimately unsuccessful resolution which would have set aside 15 minutes for members of the public to address county committees and the full Commission on any issue.
For Scott, the issue may have hit close to home. At an Emergency Management Committee meeting in February, she was not allowed to address members regarding terminating the fire contract between the county and the City of Mt. Juliet by committee chair Robert Lannom.
Under current rules, committee chairs – and in the case of the full Commission, the county mayor – may decide who may or may not speak.
While admitting her own experience "added fuel to the fire," she said residents who had called her wishing to address the Commission served as her impetus.
"Several of those people were saying, 'I'd like to come to the County Commission and make a comment about it,' and I said, 'We don't have any provisions for that unless you're going through a zoning issue," Scott said. " … There's no way they'll allow for public comment."
She said after the resolution's failure she wasn't surprised, attributing the negative vote to "old-guard control."
Lannom, who voted against the measure, said after the meeting committee chairs should be able to use discretion, saying he had never refused a request to speak at his committee "who calls me and tells me what they want to speak about."
"Sometimes you get wind of things that's going happen and things that people are going to say that has nothing to do with what's on the agenda, and things that have already been voted on," Lannom said. "But they still want to talk about it."
He said requests to be included on the agenda were the most time-effective way of managing resident comments.
District 3 Commissioner Fred Weston, who along with Scott was not allowed to speak at the February EMA committee meeting, said it was "a crying shame that we've got people out here in this audience that can't address this board."
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.