The vote was 14-0 to ask Commission Chair Louie Alford to write a letter to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann asking him to try to get the funding restored.
Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth announced two weeks earlier at a Law Enforcement Committee meeting that federal funding for meth “lab” cleanups was cut with only two days’ notice.
According to reports, the department averaged two to three meth lab busts a month last year. Removal and disposal of chemicals in an affected area costs an average of $3,000.
In a separate issue, Commissioner Dr. Mel Griffith withdrew his request for Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis to conduct a survey of former volunteer firefighters.
Griffith asked the mayor on Feb. 28, about the possibility of conducting a survey to determine why volunteer firefighters left the department.
County Mayor D. Gary Davis reported Monday that Bradley County Fire Rescue has a total of 82 volunteers. Of that number, 65 have maintained their qualifications and 17 unqualified volunteers are listed as support personnel. There are 31 volunteers in training. The number of volunteers responding to the most recent fires in each district ranges from one to 18.
He said the number of volunteers leaving the department averages six to eight every year for a myriad of reasons.
BCFR Chief Dewey Woody said not all of the 31 people in training will stick with the department.
“They’re going to report to a fire and realize this is a dangerous job they are doing for nothing,” he said.
Davis said the department continues to recruit volunteers.
As for the meth problem, the cut in federal funds comes at a time when the Tennessee General Assembly is considering cracking down on methamphetamine abuse, a problem that has seen a resurgence in popularity. The number of clandestine labs seized fell dramatically after state legislators passed a law in 2005 regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine, the primary ingredient in meth.
According to State Rep. Eric Watson, reports show the state had a record-setting year for meth lab seizures in 2010, with an average of five labs a day being seized.
House Bill 234 calls for adoption of a statewide, industry-funded National Precursor Log Exchange, an electronic tracking system to monitor and stop illicit purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy products containing pseudoephedrine.
Watson said there is currently no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal sales in real time, as many pharmacies and retailers rely on handwritten, paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals have learned to circumvent the current system.
Lawmakers also filed a bill aimed at a derivative of methamphetamine, known as “bath salts.” The drug affects the central nervous system and can cause chest pain, heart attack and stroke, as well as delusions and psychosis.
Bath salts recently gained the attention of White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, who released a statement dated Feb. 2, in response to the emerging threat of synthetic stimulants often sold and marketed in stores as “bath salts” under names such as “Ivory Wave” or “Purple Wave.”
He said they lack sufficient data to understand exactly how prevalent the use of the stimulants are, but they pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who may use them.
At a time when drug use in America is increasing, the marketing and sale of these poisons as “bath salts” is both unacceptable and dangerous, he added.