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City and County Firefighters Want to be Separate
by Ashley Murphy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Bradley County Commission received good news from Bill Methaney, whose company performed an audit on the Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Methaney said the center is in excellent financial shape and will not be requesting any funds form the county this year.

Joe Newcombe, administrator for Bradley Healthcare, was glad to present Mayor Gary Davis with a check for $8,650. This money will be used to purchase a ventilator for the ambulance service. It was requested during the budget process, but ultimately discarded due to lack of funding.

Mayor Davis shared more good news regarding a grant. Bradley County has received a $500,000 water grant that will allow the extension of public water to about 134 households around the Bates Pike and York Road areas. This is a $1 million project, but Ocoee Utilities has agreed to match the grant. Many wells in this area were tested and the results showed positive for bacteria.

Commissioner Connie Wilson requested the recommended funding for upcoming HCI projects be placed on next week's agenda. This years' recommendations include five elementary schools and Lake Forest Middle School, Bradley County Farmer's Market, Bradley County EMS, Cleveland Civitan Club, Family Promise and People for Care and learning. The total of all recommended funding amounts comes to $117,258.79.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber then questioned Wilson, Chair of the Finance Committee, about a matter to pay bills. Inmates were ordered by general sessions court to undergo mental evaluation screenings to see if those individuals were fit to stand trial. The total came to $4,200. This division, at one time, was paid by the State of Tennessee. This is no longer the case and the responsibility has been passed down the individual counties.

As of yet, there is no line item for these bills to come out of. Wilson stated that during next budget cycle, the plan was to create a line item and allocate money in the General Sessions Clerk budget to pay for these bills. Wilson will consult with County Finance Director Lynn Burns to come up with a suitable position for the funds.

Yarber pulled the finance recommendation from the consent agenda for further discussion on the regular agenda.

Both Bradley County and Cleveland City Firefighters made their presence known during the meeting. The commission room was full of navy and red. However, this time, both sides seemed to be in agreement; neither party wanted a merger and both wanted to be separate.

Mike Akins from the Cleveland City Fire Department spoke first, saying their association was against a merger. Greg Crumley from the Bradley County Fire Department made the same statement. Crumley went a little further to say their department wanted no merger and no contract, just to separate the departments.

Akins took the podium once again to voice how "shocked" the City Fire Department is that this issue came up again so soon. "We want it to be settled one way or another for good," he stated.

After a lengthy discussion amongst the commissioners and select firefighters regarding services, funding, long range planning, possible tax increases and overall quality of the departments, the feelings among both fire departments was the same; separation.

Commissioner Howard Thompson said no committees should be formed to decipher this matter, the commission "shouldn't even be involved." "The firemen have spoke, they're the professionals. It's up to us and Cleveland to make it work," Thompson concluded.

The Bradley County Commission will meet again on Monday, November 1st at 7 p.m. in the Bradley County Courthouse.