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Mt. Juliet squires criticize fire pact
May 10, 2006 12:00 am
April 29, 2006 – The Mt. Juliet City Commission – a group until now has been all but absent from the fire service debate – expressed their frustration, disappointment and unhappiness with the Ad Hoc Fire Study Committee agreement reached earlier this week, describing it as "short-sighted" and even "sub-par."
Under the terms of a deal reached Tuesday, the five-member study committee agreed to extend the fire protection contract between Mt. Juliet and Wilson County by five years and lengthened the contract termination time from 90 days to one year.
If approved by the County Commission, the new deal would, in essence, guarantee Mt. Juliet would receive county fire service for at least a full year. It would also put off future debate until after the election cycle.
In exchange, Mt. Juliet agreed to provide the county with $25,000 in funds for Mt. Juliet's fire station equipment as well as a reserve volunteer firefighting force to aid county firefighters.
Mt. Juliet District 3 City Commissioner Ed Hagerty said he only heard about the deal and had yet to see the language the study committee ironed out Tuesday.
Still, the vice mayor reacted coolly to the agreement, saying it sounded like Mt. Juliet agreed to a tax simply for playing the county's game.
District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice said he was not happy with the "sub-par" agreement. Justice said it felt like the $25,000 Mt. Juliet agreed to pay the county was a "buy out" to have the issue shelved temporarily.
Glen Linthicum, who represents Mt. Juliet's second district, said he thought paying $25,000 was "short-sighted," and failed to address any of the issues the committee set out to solve.
"I do not agree with this $25,000," Linthicum said. "This is somewhat of an additional tax for the City of Mt. Juliet for something that's already agreed upon.
"And we haven't done anything, really. We haven't solved the problem, which is what I thought this ad hoc committee was here to do, once they actually went public with their meetings," Linthicum continued.
The District 2 city commissioner then questioned the future of the "short-sighted" agreement.
"Don't just say '$25,000 and we'll continue for another six months.' And then what?" he said. "In another six months are you going to say you want another $25,000? Or this time $50,000?"
District 4 Commissioner Jim Bradshaw said he, like Hagerty, had yet to see the agreement, but questioned if the $25,000 was actually going to help Mt. Juliet.
"That's why I want to see a line-item in there, to see exactly what that $25,000 is going to," Bradshaw said. "In other words, I want to see if it's stuff that's going to get us in compliance."
Aside from their views on the pact itself, all city commissioners said they should have had more input in negotiations.
"I would like to have more say-so in it," Bradshaw said. "I'm not going to say I'm overjoyed by the make up of the Ad Hoc Committee. It's been a delicate situation, but I've not been pleased with it, period."
Asked how the study committee could have produced an agreement that none of the Mt. Juliet city commissioners were happy with, Justice said; "Because we (city commissioners) haven't had any available input."
Justice laid some blame on the entire study committee but also said the political motives of many directly involved in the process have created a terrible situation.
"Elam is up there representing herself as the will of the Commission without there being any will of the Commission," he said.
Justice placed blame on Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman for not willing to give Elam any credibility on the issue.
"Because to do that would only help her in running against him," Justice said. "Elam and (City Manager Rob) Shearer are putting us in a position of no-win by their actions."
Bradshaw said a lack of communication definitely contributed to the situation.
"Rob (Shearer) needs to communicate better. I just sent my evaluation in on him, and one of my lower points was communication," he said. "I don't think the Commission needs to call up and call up and say, 'Give me an update, give me and update.' He's (Shearer) good on updating us on figures. But on other things, like the fire issue sometimes, we just don't get updated."
In the end, though, Bradshaw said no one individual is to blame.
"There can be better communication all the way around; the county, the city, the mayor, the Commission, and the manager," he said.
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at email@example.com.