- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
County government may force Mt. Juliet to pay own way on fire protection
Apr 07, 2005 12:00 am
Wilson County government has plans to stay in the fire fighting business in Mt. Juliet, but the state's fastest growing city may have to start contributing financially to their emergency services.
A long-term plan developed by the Wilson Emergency Management Agency indicates a new substation will be needed in East Wilson County next year. WEMA Director Jerry McFarland said the proposed facility is needed to better protect homes east of Highway 231, including the Tuckers Crossroads Community.
However, excerpts of the plan obtained by The Lebanon Democrat also suggest WEMA will continue to provide fire protection in West Wilson despite rampant retail and residential development in and around Mt. Juliet.
In fact, the six-year plan calls for the construction of a new WEMA station in Mt. Juliet in 2008 or 2009 and for the purchase of an "aerial truck" in 2007 to better protect tall structures.
"This unit will be based at Station 3 in Mt. Juliet," the report says of the aerial truck, "so it will be readily accessible to the expanding residential, retail and industrial exposures that are present and planned for Mt. Juliet. While there are large buildings in all sections of the county there currently is a greater concentration in Mt. Juliet than in other sections of the county."
McFarland noted some homes in West Wilson are equivalent to four-story buildings, fueling the need for an aerial truck in the area.
Fire protection in Mt. Juliet has become a political football in county government.
Despite the city's rampant residential growth and an impending wave of retail development, the city does not furnish its own fire protection unlike the county's other cities, Lebanon and Watertown.
City leaders have argued Mt. Juliet residents already pay for county fire service and should not have to pay twice, arguing the city simply has a better deal than their neighbors.
City leaders in Lebanon and some in county government maintain Mt. Juliet city officials do not want to fund a fire department because it would mean Mt. Juliet would have to pass a city property tax – historically an unpopular issue in the West Wilson city.
With the WEMA report made public heading into this year's budget period, Wilson County Commissioner Billy Swindell – a member of the Commission's powerful Financial Management Committee – will ask Mt. Juliet to help shoulder costs associated with both of the new WEMA stations.
Swindell, whose 15th District lies in the eastern end of the county, said the eastern county facility is long overdue and Mt. Juliet should help pay for it given what it receives now from county government in fire protection.
"I felt like we ought to look at the amount of money we're spending for (WEMA) personnel in Mt. Juliet and the amount of equipment we have in the Mt. Juliet area and ask the Mt. Juliet people to help us fund this fire station," he said.
McFarland estimated the cost of a new facility would weigh in at roughly $200,000, although that estimate did not include the cost of staffing the station. Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman added all existing WEMA substations have been built on donated land – something Swindell said would likely be available for the East Wilson station.
"We've got enough money in the ambulance fund to build a fire station, and I think I can get somebody to give us the land to put it on," Swindell said. " … I don't have as much money in my district as we've spent in some of the other districts, especially West Wilson County. I think our people deserve to have a fire station where it doesn't take somebody 30 minutes to come from Oak Street to Tuckers Crossroads to put out a fire."
To better serve East Wilson, Swindell said he would support plans for a new WEMA substation and seek Mt. Juliet's assistance.
"I feel it's really important that Mt. Juliet help us by funding part of the personnel and part of the equipment for the Mt. Juliet area … and help us build a fire station where it's needed the most," Swindell said.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam did not directly respond to Swindell's proposal Friday, noting her city already assists the county's emergency response agency.
"Mt. Juliet's contribution to the WEMA fire service in Wilson County is that we own the fire hall in Mt. Juliet, and we lease it to WEMA for $1 a year. We have secured two acres at a premier location for an additional fire hall that is going to be desperately needed within the next year," Elam said.
She explained the development of the 3,200-home Providence development as well as Providence MarketPlace would fuel the need for additional fire protection in and around the city.
"Mt. Juliet is very quickly going to be in need of additional fire resources as we develop very compact and expansive retail," Elam said.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.