The Dyer County Fire Department is asking the budget committee not to remove the $50,000 appropriated to them as a one-time expense during the 2012-2013 budget hearings. Dyer County Fire Chief James Medling asked the committee during its meeting on Thursday morning if it would allow the fire department to retain those funds in its budget so it can address the deteriorating condition of the department's brush trucks and eventually their pumper trucks.
Medling had previously presented his concerns to the fire committee during meetings held this past November and December and was encouraged by Commissioner David Agee, who serves as chairman of the fire committee, to present his request to the budget committee for their consideration as they put together the 2013-2014 budget.
"We're not asking for an increase in the budget over this current year, we're just asking to keep that 50," said Medling.
Medling reported that the average age of the frontline pumpers are 18 years old with the oldest being 23 years old. The brush trucks, which are used to respond to approximately 80 percent of the calls, have an average age of 27 years. Medling told the committee that the brush trucks are used to handle wild land fires, brush fires, car fires, grass fires and can be used as a first-responder medical-call vehicle. Medling says he would like to purchase one-ton trucks with a slide-in unit that will allow the department to use them as brush trucks. Ten trucks will cost approximately $550,000.
"When we bought these fleet of trucks 20 years ago we received a grant that purchased three of them and the county purchased the other four to get everyone a new truck," said Medling. "We borrowed the money then and paid it off at $50,000 a year and we would like to do the same this time around."
Commissioner Jim Horner mentioned that an individual up north, who dedicated himself to rebuilding fire trucks, contacted Mayor Richard Hill and asked that his contact information be passed along to Medling. Medling responded that he received the information that morning and would be contacting the individual, but in most cases by the time that brush trucks need to be rebuilt they are in bad shape.
"Used pumpers are definitely something that you can look into and rebuild," said Medling. "Used brush trucks are ... they are pretty well shot when someone gets rid of a brush truck."
"All these angles need to be looked into," said Hill.
The fire department wasn't the only department making requests, as Sherriff Jeff Box was present at Thursday's budget meeting as well to make a request on behalf of the constables. Box explained that the constables need new radios in order to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate that began Jan. 1, 2013, which required all public safety and business industrial land mobile-radio systems to begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology.
Box said that the E911 board assisted in upgrading his department's radios to comply with the mandate (Medling stated that his department was assisted with that upgrade as well) but that there is some question from the 911 board whether it is a legitimate expense for the constables, who may or may not be considered first responders. Box provided the committee with a quote from West Tennessee Communications for 10 radios that would cost approximately $8,000.
According to Box, constables are invaluable as they not only serve summons but also assist deputies when possible.
"They help with DUI enforcement and traffic safety," said Box. "It's a good deterrent to have them visible in the community."
Hill acknowledged that the committee needed to do what it could to help with the issue, as the constables free deputies from having to serve papers and in the event of an emergency that the county needs them they are standing by.
Constable James Samson was present at the meeting and he commented that the constables do not ask the county for any financial assistance for their training. Samson pointed to the bulletproof vest he wears, which he purchased himself, and he also commented that constables are required by the state to go through 40 hours of in-service training each year, which is paid for by the constables.
"Everything we have is bought by us," said Samson. "We have never asked y'all for anything."
Commissioner William Mallard asked Box "how long have we known about this requirement?".
"Ten years," said Box.
Commissioner Benny Spain, who chairs the budget committee and formerly served on the 911 board, said he was unsure why the 911 board would reject purchasing radios for constables. Medling, who serves as vice chairman of the 911 board, clarified the issue stating that the issue is going to be revisited by the 911 board at its January meeting as it has been discussed in committee since the board's last meeting in November. Spain asked if Box would hold off on the expenditure request until the 911 board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at which time Spain said he would be present to discuss the matter with the board.