|MJ City Commission to finalize fire dept. on Monday|
|Friday, September 21, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Mt. Juliet City Commission will vote on second reading Monday, Sept. 24, to reinstate the city’s fire department and will consider a budget amendment to hire a Fire Chief by Jan. 1 of next year as the back-and-forth between city and County officials reaches its conclusion.
Vice Mayor James Maness said the commission will consider the ordinance on second reading to reinstate the city’s fire department, which will end the debate on how to provide better fire coverage to citizens in Mt. Juliet.
“It’s going to be a great enhancement for our citizens,” Maness said of the move to reinstate the fire department. Maness said the decision not only provides citizens with proper services but also remains fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.
City leaders passed a 20-cent property tax last year to fund the construction of a new fire hall in the Providence area, which Maness said should be online by July 2013. That property tax will continue to fund the city’s fire department and Maness said the plan is for no new taxes to fund the department.
“That’s the plan right now, no new taxes and to not dip into the General Fund,” Maness said.
He noted the 20-cent tax brings in approximately $1.3 million for the city each year and said he plans to have the city’s Emergency Services Fund keep a balance of $1 million. Maness said the cost of first year salaries to staff the department would amount to about $500,000.
He also said they would spend about $1 million on apparatus and equipment but down the road, recurring costs would decrease once capital projects and staffing are completed.
Also, the commission will consider a budget amendment during their Monday meeting to fund the Fire Chief position, which would cost about $52,000 for the first year. Maness noted that amount would not be for a full budget year.
The expected date for hiring a Fire Chief would be Jan. 1, 2013, and Maness said they are working with officials at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Municipal Tennessee Advisory Service, or MTAS, on a job description for that position.
“That will give the City Manager a clear direction,” Maness said, referring to MJ City Manager Kenny Martin.
In the near future, Maness said the city would hire career and volunteer firemen to staff the department and plans to double its personnel by July of next year when the Providence station opens. The city also plans to build a station on the north end of Mt. Juliet by 2016.
The city is looking to staff three firemen at both stations while also utilizing a volunteer force of about 25 firemen.
“We don’t have to fix 30 years of problems overnight,” Maness noted. “We’re looking at starting slowly and taking the volunteer program back under our belt.”
The city disbanded its fire department in 1986, when WEMA agreed to provide fire coverage for the city limits. That agreement was renewed in 2006 for five more years but the exponential growth in Mt. Juliet has brought city and county leaders to the point of finding a permanent solution.
Maness said this plan allows the city to move forward and noted plans submitted by County Mayor Randall Hutto were good plans, but weren’t “a good fit for the city.”
Moving forward, Maness said he was confident the 20-cent property tax would be more than enough to fund the department given the strong sales tax revenues the city generates each year. He said the city has improved its sales tax revenues this year compared to last year and said every day new businesses are opening to provide more money for the city.