With the beginning of October, and the start of the new fiscal year, the first responder position created earlier this year by the city of Rhome vanished after it was removed from the city budget last month.
But council members, residents and special guests will revisit the issue 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at City Hall during the regular meeting.
Last month the council voted 3-2 to approve a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but only if the money for the first responder position – created in May – was removed. Council members Jo Ann Wilson, Ronnie Moore and Charles Pennington voted for the measure while Michelle Pittman and Louis Godfrey voted against.
Wilson argued that the city did not have enough money to keep the position, while Pittman and Godfrey said there was more than enough money to fund it.
Mayor Chris Moore urged the council to keep the position and revisit it later if necessary. The job paid $35,000 per year, plus benefits. Supporters pointed out that the fire department provided $18,000 from its own budget to help fund it.
“The city is not in a jam,” Godfrey said. “We are doing better than we were at this time last year. The city has to grow, and us providing a first responder position during the day will help promote growth.”
Since the position was abolished, Dee Romine, who lives just outside the city limits, has started a petition to reinstate the first responder post. She plans to present that petition to the council Thursday. Romine argues that the faster response time for medical emergencies, fires, wrecks and injuries with a full-time first responder in Rhome is more than worth the cost to taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Charles Dillard, administrator of Wise County Emergency Medical Services, has been asked to give a presentation on services provided to Rhome residents. Heather McGlasson, who works with Air Evac, will also speak on the services the medical helicopter company provides residents.
Some of those in support of the full-time first responder position like to point out that the city has spent thousands on a pavilion for the Rhome Family Park that failed to pass inspection. That item will also be on Thursday’s agenda.
In late August, Darren Williams, an inspector with Countywide Field Inspection Services, failed the concrete foundation for the pavilion.
“The stage was never called for an inspection,” Williams wrote in his report. “When I got here, the stage and flat work had already been poured. Countywide did no inspection of the rebar or electrical inside of the slab and will take no responsibility for the foundation, electrical inside of the slab or flat work.”
“Why did we pay more than $8,100 for concrete, when we were given free concrete?” Godfrey asked.
Terri Troxell, chair of the Parks and Recreation Board, said her father was willing to give concrete to the city. He was also willing to build the pavilion structure on top of the concrete after it had been poured, also for little to no cost.
“The money spent needlessly on the concrete could have gone to the first responder position,” she said.
Now, with the foundation failing inspection, it is unknown when the pavilion will go up or how much it will cost, since Troxell is no longer going to build the pavilion.
Godfrey added that since the foundation failed inspection, he doesn’t feel comfortable with anything being built on it.