Council balks at fire budget

Published 9:10 am Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MURFREESBORO — Until Molly Eubank took exception to recommendations regarding the town’s volunteer fire department, Friday afternoon’s Town of Murfreesboro budget workshop was routine, with council members asking only for clarification of budget items.

But when the discussion reached the fire department’s portion of the budget, Eubank said, “I have a problem with a couple of things…” Town Administrator Cathy Davison had recommended, in her initial budget memo to the council members prior to the workshop, that members of the all-volunteer department should, like other area volunteer departments, stage fund raising events to pay for a portion of their own “turn out gear” and meet other “personnel expenses.” “We have a very good fire department.

I think we should be proud of them and we should give them what they ask for,” Eubank said.

Repeating points she made in the initial memo, Davison pointed out that Murfreesboro pays 100 percent of retirement plan expense for the firemen and pays them $13 per call. Other area departments she said are going to just paying the retirement.

Council member Lloyd Hill said he agreed with Eubank. “I don’t think we should ask them to have fund raisers.” Council member Gloria Odom concurred. “I agree.

I would not want to have to buy my own equipment to save a life or to save somebody else’s property.” “They can’t go to a fire if they don’t have the equipment,” said Council member Sarah Wallace. Darrell Rowe, Murfreesboro Police Chief, who is also responsible for the fire department, told the council the cost of a fireman’s coat is $672; pants are $394, and a pair of boots is $299. Wallace reacted by saying, “If we start asking them to buy that, some of them are going to decide they can’t afford to volunteer.”

Councilman Bill Theodorakis said, “I think we need to think about it a little more. Let’s take it up Wednesday.” The council is scheduled to meet in a second budget workshop Wednesday, May 13. The council also agreed to further consider recommendations regarding the Murfreesboro Library in next Wednesday’s meeting.

During the review of the administrator’s recommendations regarding library funding, Hill said, “Many people think the library is operated by the county… and they do not realize what it costs to operate it.”

Davison told the council that the town has funded library operations since 1973 under an agreement with the Albemarle Regional Library. Theodorakis asked that the council be provided details of that agreement and of the “town’s exact responsibilities in writing.”

Eubank said the library is much used and that use is steadily increasing. Soon, she said, it will be necessary for the town, which owns the building that houses the library, to enable expansion to the upstairs portion of the building.

“I think it’s coming soon,” she said. The building’s renovation when it was occupied by the library included provision for installation of an elevator. Wallace asked that the council be provided a cost estimate for that work.

The council agreed to revisit the library’s portion of the budget Wednesday. Also to be revisited Wednesday is the portion of the budget dealing with police department expenses and staffing.