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Fire Hall Compromise Finally Reached?
by Ashley Murphy

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mayor D. Gary Davis opened up today's meeting with a few clarification points regarding the discussion that has been surrounding the fire contract and the new fire hall location property. Davis stated that the commission actually did vote on a plan for the county fire department to go on their own by 2013 and not enlist the help of the city fire department anymore.

Davis continued by referring to the minutes of an August 3, 2009 meeting, in which several commissioners passed a plan for the Bradley County Fire Department to go on their own on July 1, 2010. To this, Davis stated that the given time frame was not adequate and funds were not available to make this happen. Once again, referring to August 3, 2009, Davis stated that later in the meeting another vote was held which kept the proposed plan, but the timeline was elongated to give both, the city and the county, time to adjust before the county fire department went on their own.

Davis continued by saying that he realizes there would be some commissioners who wish to form a committee to analyze and study this, but that it has been studied and studied and a decision has already been made, as of last year. "Today is simply the time to move forward and implement the next step," concluded Davis.

When the fire issue was reached on the regular agenda, Commissioner Jeff Morelock presented a substitute motion to approve the purchase of 1 acre of Volunteer Electric property for $28,000. Further, that the Finance Committee work with the Legislative Administrator and the County Mayor staff to update the finance information as has been developed in the past. Gather any new information on three options for county fire protection.

1. Merge with the City of Cleveland Fire Department.

2. Countywide department with no contract with the Cleveland Fire Department.

3. Another contract with the Cleveland Fire Department for fringe area fire protection.

Three options with cost estimates will be presented to the commission no later than the first commission work session in January 2011 and will be voted on no later than the following voting session in January 2011.

Commissioner Howard Thompson disagreed with the substitute motion and wished to place a motion to amend the substitute motion to go ahead and vote on the property purchase today and then vote on the other issues at a later date. Thompson's motion to amend failed and Morelock's substitute motion to the original motion passed with Commissioners Mel Griffith and Ed Elkins voting no. Thompson changed his yes vote to a no vote after roll call.

Davis wanted to remind all of the commissioners that once the property is purchased, the land can only be used for a Bradley County Fire Hall and nothing else. He also asked where the $28,000 in the substitute motion was supposed to come from, as no designation had been set.

Elkins put forth a motion of clarification to use Bradley County Fire Department Capitol Funds to pay for the $28,000 property that will be used for the fire hall. The motion passed unanimously.

On down the agenda, Thompson made a motion for service weapon retirement for Terry Norwood. Officer Norwood has been with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office for 28 years and is retiring. Commissioner Adam Lowe requested that Thompson amend his motion to include two more officers who are also retiring: Bill Byrd, who has 23 years of service, and Barry Tharp, who has 28 years of service. The motion was amended and passed to allow these officers to keep their service weapons upon retirement. Included in that motion was an amendment by Commissioner Elkins to include the provision that the Bradley County Commission and the Sheriff's Office establish a policy in regards to giving of service weapons to a minimum years of service and the officer must be retiring.

There was also a motion to give former Sheriff Tim Gobble his service weapon. Thompson wished to pull the agenda item due to the circumstances just listed previously, but was unable to due to the agenda already being voted on and set. A vote was taken for Gobble's service weapon and passed with a vote of 8-6.

The Bradley County Commission will meet again on Monday, September 27th at 7 p.m. in the Courthouse.