While the federal government shutdown continues, the Rhome City Council suffered a shutdown of its own Thursday night.
The meeting ended prematurely when the council lost a quorum after only getting through half the items on the agenda.
The meeting began with only three members present – Mayor Chris Moore was joined by council members Jo Ann Wilson, Louis Godfrey and Michelle Pittman. Council members Charles Pennington and Ronnie Moore were absent.
Just before the council arrived at the most contentious item on its agenda – the paid first responder position and an update on the park pavilion – Wilson gathered her paperwork and left, leaving the council with only two members present.
Wilson collected her belongings and headed toward the back door without a word, only to emerge moments later telling the crowd in the council chambers that the back door was locked before she exited the front door.
Wilson declined to comment on why she left the meeting early, citing “personal reasons.”
A city council must have at least three members present to hold a meeting.
Godfrey said he would make sure the items are on the agenda next month, or however long it takes, to be discussed publicly.
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. Wilson, Moore and Pennington voted for the measure while Pittman and Godfrey voted against.
The fate of the position, which was officially abolished at the beginning of October, was once again on the agenda and up for discussion and possible action.
Dee Romines, who lives just outside city limits, had said she was planning to present the results of a petition asking the council to reinstate the first repsonder position.
Before the meeting ended early, the council and the gathered crowd of about 20 residents heard a presentation from Wise County EMS Administrator Charles Dillard.
Dillard presented information showing the average response time to emergency calls in Rhome city limits was approximately 10 minutes over the past 12 months, with the longest being 26 minutes. Records found an average of 2.58 calls per month in city limits during the times of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. over the past 12 months.
Pittman, who also serves as volunteer on the Rhome Fire Department, said the city fully appreciates the efforts and services of Wise County EMS, but said having a first repsonder within the city limits can bring the average response time from 10 minutes down to two minutes.