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First responder position shelved

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, November 16, 2013

The debate over the future of Rhome’s short-lived first responder position is on pause for the foreseeable future.

“I think we need to table this until we begin talking about the 2015 budget,” said council member Jo Ann Wilson. “We are tired of talking about it.”

The item was on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting but was quickly tabled by Wilson. The motion to table was seconded by Ronnie Moore.

Mayor Chris Moore said he put the item on the agenda “because a lot of people in the community have asked me to.”

A couple of audience members aired out their opinions on the position.

Dee Romine told the council she felt the abolishment of the first responder position was more about a “personal vendetta” against Robert Pratt than it was about budgetary concerns.

But Jerry Taylor, assistant fire chief of Newark Volunteer Fire Department, spoke in support of the council’s decision.

“At some point in time the city will grow and there will have to be a paid position, but are we at that time yet?,” Taylor asked the council. “And if we do get to that point I think we either need to hire someone who will be a paid firefighter or a paramedic, not an EMT that has to clock out to fight fires.”

In September, the council voted 3-2 to approve a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but only if the money for the EMS/first responder position – created in May – was removed. Council members Wilson, Moore and Charles Pennington voted for the measure while Michelle Pittman and Louis Godfrey voted against.

The position was held by Pratt, who also serves as the city’s fire chief. It was officially abolished at the beginning of October.

The item was on the agenda last month as well but was never discussed as the council lost its quorum just before the issue came up, after Wilson left the meeting.

PARK BOARD STUCK IN NEUTRAL

The Parks and Recreation Board is down to only one member after two resignations were accepted at Thursday night’s city council meeting.

Dawn Vestal and Debbie Stewart both submitted their resignations from the board to the city council. Board chair Terri Troxell had also turned in a resignation but retracted it prior to the council meeting.

With only one member left, the board will be unable to hold its monthly meeting.

“It is by definition now inactive because you need at least three members to have a quorum,” said city attorney Walt Leonard.

The city will continue to accept applications for the board. The council also plans to hold a workshop in January defining the structure and role of the parks and recreation board.

PAVILION ON PAUSE

The council also discussed the fate of the unfinished pavilion in the city’s family park.

The foundation for the pavilion is in place, but the city has held off on erecting the pavilion until the integrity of the concrete slab is confirmed.

After a lengthy and passionate discussion of concrete, the mayor and council leaned toward the idea of using a core sample as the cheapest way to test the slab.

SANTA’S COMING

Children can meet Santa Claus 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Community Center in Rhome. Snacks and beverages will be served along with gift giveaways.

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