by Mel Griffith
Bradley County's fire contract with the city doesn't expire until the middle of 2010, but the maneuvering to be sure that the City of Cleveland stays on its $1.6 million gravy train at county taxpayers expense has already begun. The county has a fire board which is preparing plans for the future. Even though this board is doing the job it is supposed to be doing, some commissioners apparently are fearful that it won't be dominated by the city. Consequently, they set up a new committee to duplicate its functions. Just to make sure it looks out for the city instead of the county, half of it will be made up of city representatives, who really have no business being involved in county planning. To make doubly sure, one of the leading commission opponents of the Bradley County Fire Dept. was put on the committee. He has constantly advocated "consolidating", in other words, abolishing the county fire department.
The city has consistently tried to destroy the county fire department ever since it was started and no efforts to have the two departments to work together have succeeded. Soon after the county fire department was started in the 1990s, the commission, in a moment of insanity turned it over to the city. That almost destroyed it and it took years to recover. Then they tried having the two departments fight fires together. That didn't work either. Then the city was given the "fringe area", which is anyplace in the county that is within five miles of a city fire station. That covers most of the heavily populated areas of the county which is where the tax base is. In case that might leave enough tax base for the county fire department to survive on, the city has a plan to make sure it doesn't. They will simply build enough city fire stations carefully located at the outer edges of the city to grab off pretty much all the county fire tax base. That way, there won't be enough taxes left to support the county fire department and it can be "consolidated" out of existence. Then the city will be rid of bothersome competition and can provide whatever level of service they please for whatever price they choose. We have been there before. That's why the county fire department was started in the first place. To complete their plan for getting rid of the county fire department, the city has already built one station on the west side and has plans to build another. The really neat part of their plan is that they are getting plenty of county money from the present fire contract to build the stations intended to put the county fire department out of business.
The newly formed (and totally unnecessary) committee is supposed to study all the options for county fire protection. In reality, there are only two options. Get rid of the contract with the city or get rid of the county fire department. County taxpayers can't afford both. We know which one the city prefers. Those who remember how things worked when the city was in charge until the mid-90's won't have any trouble figuring out that they prefer the Bradley County Fire Department.