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MJ fire facing unclear future
Feb 17, 2006 12:00 am
February 14, 2006
The City of Mt. Juliet has a new impetus to renegotiate the fire contract between itself and Wilson County after the county's Emergency Management Agency Committee voted unanimously to cancel the long-standing agreement Monday night.
The 19-year-old contract has been a source of contention in the past several months with committee chair and District 13 Commissioner Robert Lannom bringing the issue to a head Monday with a resolution exercising the county's option to dissolve the fire protection agreement with the 90-day notice provision provided.
"I think to ever get a meaningful dialogue going, we're going to have to start the clock running and the way to get the clock running is to cancel the contract," Lannom said.
Lannom submitted the proposal "because the time has come, evidently, to where the county cannot provide the services Mt. Juliet says they require."
The resolution calls for an ad-hoc committee to be created to manage the transition and have the option to "draw up a more equitable contract," Lannom said.
"I've met with MJ officials – they said they were completely satisfied with the contract, and they saw no need to change it," Lannom said after the meeting. "With an attitude like that, it's hard to negotiate."
Lannom cited County Attorney Mike Jennings' report, which said the county should review its agreements with Mt. Juliet and Watertown – which is 21 years old – "and update those agreements accordingly," Lannom recalled.
Two residents and two sitting county commissioners who were not part of the committee requested to address the panel. Lannom refused. One of them – District 22 Commissioner Heather Scott – questioned the committee's willingness to negotiate.
"I think that the people of Mt. Juliet are willing to sit down and negotiate, but if (Lannom) won't even let me address the committee, how are you supposed to negotiate with someone like that?" Scott said.
Regarding his refusal to allow Scott and others to speak, Lannom said he had no requests from commissioners or anyone else to be added to the agenda and he was following the set agenda.
County Attorney Mike Jennings – who was presiding over a Watertown City Council meeting and not present at the EMA committee – agreed with Lannom that the meeting was not a public hearing and said the chairman has the discretion to allow or disallow public comments.
County Mayor Robert Dedman – who was present at the meeting – said he did not want to close the fire station serving Mt. Juliet, but providing staff and equipment for a proposed new station near Providence Place in West Wilson County "is another issue."
"I don't want the citizens of Mt. Juliet to be without fire and ambulance protection while this is going on," he said, noting Mt. Juliet's proposal to construct the building for Providence Place leaves "the big bucks" for staffing and equipment to be left to the county.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam could not be immediately reached for comment.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.