Committee approves County Fire and Rescue budget

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Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Farley. File Photo

Rutherford County’s budget committee approved a $1.89 million budget last week for the County Fire and Rescue Department, including funds to pay volunteers who undergo training and certification.

Rutherford County has 12 fulltime firefighters, and volunteers will be paid to fill in when they go on vacation or take sick leave, according to Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Farley.

Commissioner Robert Peay took exception to the concept of paying only the volunteer firefighters with the Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Department. Rutherford County also has several volunteer departments such as Walter Hill and Kittrell that operate under their own charter but work with the Rutherford County department.

“If we’re going to do that for our guys, we ought to do that for all,” Peay said, adding he is tired of hearing about the Rutherford department exclusively when all volunteer fire departments are part of Rutherford County.

Farley pointed out that he is trying to make the Rutherford County department “an umbrella” for all departments for insurance purposes. Peay wasn’t certain that would be affordable at this point.

Commissioner Will Jordan noted, “If we didn’t incentivize with part-time pay, we’d have to hire full-timers.”
Farley said he has a network of about 315 volunteers to pull from for part-time work. That number would be greater if volunteers were used from across the county.

Peay was the only commissioner to vote against the Fire and Rescue Department budget plan, which will go before the full commission next and must be approved by June 30.

The county department no longer will serve La Vergne because the city set up a fulltime department, but the county will respond to calls immediately outside its city limits, primarily in the Almaville area between Smyrna and La Vergne, Farley told commissioners.

The department will purchase a rescue truck to be used in a service company to lower the county’s Insurance Service Organization rating, according to Farley. The county has 22 trucks and replacing each one costs from $350,000 to $375,000.

Replacing all of them would cost almost $7 million over a 10-year period, Mayor Ernest Burgess said.

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