Dandridge Council authorized up to $430,000 for a new fire engine during their regular session Tuesday night.
The group also agreed that they will accept a county budget committee proposal for fire department funding — but signaled that that might not be the case next fiscal year.
Acting on motions from Vice Mayor Todd Kesterson and Council member Jeff Depew, the group unanimously agreed to use $280,000 in cash on hand (from a money market savings account, the fire department donation account, and fire department operations funds) and a $150,000 capital outlay note to pay for a new front line engine.
When donation letters are mailed to local residents soon, they will indicate that receipts will assist with fire department operations through June 30, 2019, Council members agreed. The move could be a sign that Council may reconsider dropping its first-responder status outside city limits the following fiscal year.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Kesterson raised a question about donation funds from inside and outside city sources going into “the same pot.” The practice could result in the town having to refund outside-city donations if the department were to switch to inside-city coverage only, he said.
City officials have debated fire department funding with county officials for several years. Though 80 percent of the city department’s fire calls are outside town limits, city taxpayers assume most of the cost for department operations.
Last year, Council voted to keep fire trucks inside city limits unless the county paid more of its fair share. Commission increased its contribution by $30,000 to $85,000 — but $10,000 of that was a one-time bonus. On January 29, budget committee wrestled with the issue again, ending up with a $715,000 plan for 10 departments (including the county rescue squad) to receive between $65,000 and $103,000 based on a formula. Dandridge’s allotment would be $85,659, the second-highest amount, but the smallest by population at $3.44 per person.
Dandridge’s fire district is the biggest in the county, covering nearly 25,000 people, about half of the county’s population and 10,000 more than the next-largest district.
Fire Chief Andy Riley will be assisted by city staff in working on a proposal for the new truck, which will replace apparatus that is 29 to 30 years old. The department actually needs two new trucks, and council is planning to look at a second purchase in about five years.
Article by: The Standard Banner (Steve Marion) March 15, 2018