New EMA Director

Jamie Miller, the new Director of Hawkins County’s Emergency Management Agency.

ROGERSVILLE — During their September meeting, the Hawkins County Commission unanimously voted to give each local fire department an additional $4,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The resolution was introduced by Mike Herrell and Danny Alvis and applies to all 12 fire departments that receive funding from the Commission—both city and county. This will raise the Commission’s annual funding for county fire departments from $19,110 to $23,110 and city departments from $17,150 to $21,150.

This comes to a total of $48,000. Though the additional funding is tentatively planned only for this year, there is also a chance it could become a regular occurrence, as Mike Herrell noted that the idea will be “looked at each budget year.”

Where will this money come from?“In 2018, Hawkins County dedicated $10 of the wheel tax to be used as a dedicated revenue stream for public safety funds and/or purchases,” Herrell read from his resolution. “Hawkins County fire departments are eligible to be funded from this reserve…”

Herrell’s resolution explained that this $48,000 will come from the aforementioned reserve. However, Budget Committee Chairman John Metz noted that there was only $28,336 in this reserve “that is allocated and designated for that particular expenditure.” Thus, he explained that roughly $20,000 would need to be pulled from a different area of the budget, the undesignated fund balance.

“Are you saying that we’re going to pull that additional funding out of the fund balance?” Metz asked Herrell. “Keep in mind that, during the budget process, all the motions collectively to cut expenditures was $22,500,” Metz said. “That was 0.13 percent of all expenditures…and now we’re going to turn around and spend an extra $20,000 out of the general fund for this?”

“Is there 5.8 million in the unassigned fund balance?” Herrell asked in response. “Couldn’t we just take a little bit there and give the fire departments the money?”

To this, several Commissioners spoke up in favor.

“That’s the thing — I’ve had the snot beat out of me about ‘cut, cut, cut,’” Metz said. He then referenced Chairman Rick Brewer’s pulled resolution that would have reduced the wheel tax by $10 per car tag, for a total revenue loss of roughly $500,000.

“I’m going say that $20,000 in $18 million expenditures is nothing, but, when I say that, in the next budget committee hearing, I’m going to be told ‘pennies make dollars’ and ‘don’t scoff over a $1,000 cut,’” he continued. “And I don’t. It’s taxpayer money. We should responsible but be logical.”

He went on to make a few amendments to this resolution, stipulating that these funds may only be distributed after all TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) mandated filings are completed. He also specified that the funds can only be used for capital expenditures.

In the end, everyone voted unanimously in favor of the amended resolution.

Many needs and little moneyThis comes after numerous members of local fire departments told Commission members at a July information session that much of their equipment is old and substandard.

“If everyone in here would be very blatantly truthful, about two-thirds of the fire apparatus that we’ve got in this county should have been taken to the scrapyard 25 years ago,” Goshen Valley VFD Chief told the Commission in July.

Many other local chiefs agreed, saying that they often do not have the money to replace turnout gear as often as the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) dictates, and this is a bigger problem than first meets the eye.

“If they (the local fire departments) run over the time limit set by the NFPA, and someone gets hurt, that is the standard that they will be judged by,” Mark Bowery told the Commission in July. Bowery is the regional director of VFIS insurance, which provides insurance to the Hawkins Co. Fireman’s Association. “The NFPA is not a law, but it is the standard that is used all over the United States. If someone gets hurt, they’re going to have a liability — a long liability.”

Jamie Miller Named new EMA DirectorIn related news, EMA Deputy Director Jamie Miller was named EMA Director in light of longtime Director Gary Murrell’s recent resignation.

The Commission voted unanimously in favor of Miller, who officially took on his new title on Oct. 1 after Murrell’s resignation became effective.

“I’ve served in this capacity as deputy director for several years, so I am qualified for the position,” Miller said at the meeting. “I appreciate everybody’s support. I look forward to working with you all (commissioners). I appreciate the county mayor, and I look forward to working with all the agencies present and not present.”