The Bradley County Commission held a voting session Monday to discuss the need for additional information about the potential costs of a fire contact merger between Bradley County Fire Rescue and the Cleveland Fire Department.
The County Commission is currently reviewing three options between the two agencies: merging the two fire departments, separating them, or extending the current contract between the two.
The current contract states the Cleveland Fire Department provides fire protection services to properties located in the Urban Fringe Fire District for a period of three fiscal years, which began July 1. The fringe area includes properties outside the city but within five miles of a Cleveland Fire Station. During the first two years of the contract, the county will pay the city $1.8 million, and $911,100 in the agreement’s third year. If the departments merge, the contract will be terminated.
Bradley County legislative assistant Amy Moore is researching the projected costs for each of the three fire options.
During the meeting Commissioner Howard Thompson said one of his main concerns on the subject is that he feels the Cleveland City Council seems more concerned with the $1.8 million it receives rather than providing fire protection for residents.
“It’s no longer about fire protection anymore; that’s gone, it’s about the money,” said Thompson.
Thompson said the city will use the funds through the fire contract for its general fund balance. He also indicated the city’s consideration of implementing a city ambulatory service was an attempt to hold the county “hostage.”
Commissioners discussed several options to help aid in their decision when voting in January.
Commissioner Adam Lowe suggested county firefighters complete an anonymous survey on the matter, while Commissioner Jeff Yarber recommended a joint session with the City Council.
n Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at noon to discuss the costs of implementing each of the three options. The committee will then present their findings to the County Commission during its next work session Nov. 22.
During the meeting, the Commission also unanimously voted to approve a resolution declaring Bradley County as an “economic development zone” in an effort to qualify for state funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President Gary Farlow stood before the Commission and requested the declaration. According to Farlow, by categorizing Bradley County as an “economic development zone,” the county, specifically a project at Olin Chemical, would qualify for nearly $41 million in bonds Tennessee received from the federal ARRA funds. Farlow said the Olin Chemical project seeking funding remains in the works and will be announced at a later date.
n The Bradley County Juvenile Center was recognized for receiving a perfect audit score, with zero findings, from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services report of the Bradley County Juvenile Center stated the facility was “very neat and clean” and “very well maintained.” The report stated the juvenile center staff “went above and beyond licensing standards.”
The County Commission recognized several members of the juvenile center’s staff who attended Monday’s meeting.
“This is a model program that we have in Bradley County. With the juvenile judge, the leadership of the juvenile office; with the superintendent of schools, coordination of the sheriff’s department and coordination we have in this community, this program is the envy of those surrounding counties in the state of Tennessee,” said 7th District Commissioner Bill Winters.
Upcoming scheduled committee meetings include the Fire Board Committee meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Bradley County Fire Rescue Station headquarters, located on Inman Street.
The Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at noon, in the county mayor’s conference room.