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Funding and Officer Safety a Big Concern
by Ashley Murphy

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

County Mayor D. Gary Davis opened last night's Bradley county Commission meeting by addressing Commissioner Mel Griffith's concern last week about volunteer firefighters. Davis said as of right now there are 82 total volunteer firefighters and gave statistics of the volunteers who turned out to fight a few recent fires. Each fire brought between 6 and 18 volunteer responders. Davis also added that 31 volunteers are currently in training and will be added to the roster once training is completed.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber questioned 17 names at the bottom of the list named substitute responders. Chief Dewey Woody confirmed that these 17 are currently inactive and not fighting fires. This would bring the actual number of active volunteers responding and fighting fires to 65. Woody also added that not all 31 of those in training will make it past the first couple of fires they must fight, or possibly, the training itself.

Griffith, however, was pleased with the numbers of volunteers who turn out to fight the fires. He said it's about response and aiding the community and if these are the numbers being drawn to fighting fires, then a survey doesn't seem to be needed at this time.

A report out of the Law Enforcement Committee brought up the topic of safety within the Sheriff's Department. It became known that there are, currently, 7 officers in the department who are working without a protective (bullet proof) vest. The commissioners thought this disagreeable, but there is an issue of funding to obtain these vests. In addition, at least 20 more vests will run out of their warranty by the end of 2011.

While the vests can still be used past the warranty, it highly recommended not to do so, as the company does not insure the vests will still have their protective ability. Each vest has a guaranteed warranty of five years. The last large lot of vests were purchased in 2006; therefor, their warranties will expire this year.

Commissioner Adam Lowe said they found a company willing to sell the vests to the Sheriff's Department at half price. Then, there is a grant that would pay for half of the remaining cost. Significantly cutting the cost to the county. Commissioner Brian Smith was trying to determine the exact end date of the federal grant so that the Law Enforcement Committee could recommend trying to find funds to get the needed vests and to replace all vests whose warranty will expire this year. The matter has been turned over to the Finance Committee to work with Sheriff Jim Ruth to see if the total funds could be found.

Two items were added to agenda and voted on: the approval of new Sheriff's Department asset disposal guidelines and the approval of Chairman Louie Alford sending a letter to attempt to have the federal funding of meth lab clean-ups restored.

The Bradley County Commission will meet again on Monday, March 14th at Noon in the Bradley County Courthouse.