By Jeremy Elrod
The Hull Fire Department requested a 10-percent increase in funding for the 2014 year from the city to help offset rising insurance costs, but only received approval for a five-percent increase by the council.
“From this point forward the city will get exactly what our service agreement calls for, which is the best fire service you can get,” said Fire Chief Donny Evans. “Therefore, I suggest you contact someone else about taking down the Christmas lights this year, because without the extra five-percent increase we will only be able to do what is called of us to do in this contract – and that’s strictly to provide you the best fire service you can get.”
Council member Wayne Melton questioned the issue.
“Is this a personal conflict?” he asked. “How long have we had this relationship with the fire department and had no problems?
“I’ve been at the fire department for 20 years and the relationship of service goes beyond that,” he said. “You just told us that you’re having to cut services to conserve funds, so we’re having to do the same.”
Melton voiced his feelings regarding the issue.
“We’ve always had a gentleman’s agreement that we would communicate and work with each other on things,” said Melton. “I’m just shocked at what you’re telling me.”
Evans said the issue was not personal.
“I’m simply representing the fire department and doing what’s best for us,” he said. “We will still give the city the best fire service they can get, nothing more and nothing less.”
Melton then listed explanations of why the city could not pay the extra percentage.
“We are custodians of public money, and we have a right to know where that money is going,” he said. “This city and these people have every right to know exactly where that money is going and that it’s spent in their best interest.”
“You guys don’t live in the city,” he said. “How do you think our voters would feel if we started tapping them for $400-$500 a year for property taxes on their homes? Do you have any idea what that would create or what’s going to happen if we have to spend upwards of $8,000 to survey the city this year to determine who we can tax?”
Paige Phillips also revealed her thoughts on the increased percentage.
“It’s really not worth all this bickering, especially over $61 a month,” said Phillips. “We met you half way and I originally didn’t think the extra five-percent would be a big deal seeing as how we’ve currently got a little over $13,000 in miscellaneous, but after Wayne pointed out the insurance issues we’re going through it made me realize that we don’t need to dwindle our funds down.”
Chief Evans said he understood.
“But we give you services rendered for what you give us,” he said.
Mayor Paul Elkins voiced his thoughts towards the disagreement.
“I really hate to see the city and the fire department leave crossways tonight,” he said.
Phillips listed further support on behalf of the city’s decision.
“I just think that’s hitting a little below the belt,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with our insurance, and if we lose $8,000 out of our miscellaneous funds due to the property tax and having to survey the city, then we’ll have something to worry about.”
Melton then stated that the concerns should have been voiced during the budget meeting.
“And I have a real problem with the way we sat here discussing the budget, but the fire department didn’t bring any of this up for us to look at or consider during that time,” said Melton. “If the fire department would have told us earlier that we’d no longer be getting these services and would have to spend an extra $4,000-$5,000 finding some other apparatus to use to take down the lights and flags, don’t you think we would open up our check book, the city’s check book or the citizens of this community’s check book — I have a real problem with that.”
Chief Evans offered a final comment.
“Apparently you don’t want to open the check book for $61 a month,” he said.
Councilman Melton offered one last thought on the matter.
“We have to live on a budget just like everyone else,” said Melton. “And I suggest the fire department start doing the same.”
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry