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Mt. Juliet is getting into the fire service business
Sep 15, 2012 5:20 pm
MT. JULIET - The protracted and tenuous decade-long quest toward Mt. Juliet operating its own fire department finally ignited Monday night with commissioners voting unanimously to reinstate a city-operated fire department.
And, they've managed to knock out a plan that will do this without an additional tax increase, but rather using the predicted $1.2 million annual tax revenue from the recently implemented 20-cent property tax increase and funds built up in a city reserve fire service fund. The plan will double ambulance and fire service in the city short term and triple it in a couple years. The city has had an inter-local agreement with the county for fire service since 1985.
However, for nearly a decade, city leaders – during various administrations – have asked Wilson County to augment fire and ambulance service in the ever growing Mt. Juliet.
"Currently, we are not able to meet the minimum standards to get the correct amount of responders to the scene without calling on stations from all over the county," said Vice Mayor James Maness.
County Mayor Randall Hutto recently made it clear to city commissioners that the county would not expand service to Mt. Juliet residents. Maness was appointed liaison to continue to work with the county on a mutually agreeable plan. However, the city did recently hire a firm to build a new fire station off Providence Parkway and the ball is rolling on its construction.
The ordinance to reinstate a city fire department will have a second reading in two weeks and then must be approved by the county commission, because, as part of the plan, the county will provide automatic aid and lease and operate Station 3 in back of City Hall, as well as provide two ambulance personnel at the new Providence station.
Monday night, Maness held a workshop and unveiled the plan that has taken months of work to hash out. He said the city run fire department will be a combination department manned by career firefighter/ems personnel and volunteers.
"We aren't leaving WEMA entirely out of it," he said. "What we will do as a city will offset with augmentation. Hutto had a plan and I had one and we married the two. We can establish a city run fire department with our current stream of revenue and without debt."
He said the process will be slow at first, but by 2016 the plan includes another fire station on Lebanon Road. WEMA will continue to provide ambulance and EMS as well. Very soon the city will hire a fire chief who will be in charge of getting things rolling with a goal to open the new Providence station July 2013, with the city over fire suppression and the county providing two personnel to drive the ambulance.
"This way it's better cost wise and we get more bang for the buck," said Maness.
Mayor Ed Hagerty said it is a "pretty darned good plan."
"Everything is going to be done with the current tax rate," he said.
He said there will be a total of seven personnel at the new station, which includes the fire chief and our current volunteer force of 12 will be beefed up to 25.
The cost associated with Mt. Juliet getting into the fire business will be $2.7 million the first year, which will get the station built, manned and equipped, said Maness. The next year salary costs sit at about $500,000. Hagerty said the city EMS fund has about $2.3 million and the tax will stream in about $1.2 million a year.
"We will end up having a three station scenario in Mt. Juliet that more than adequately cover our citizens and it still preserves the partnership with WEMA," he said.
Mt. Juliet News managing editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.