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Demopolis Fire Chief Tate requests money be returned to budget

Demopolis Fire Chief Tommy Tate addressed the city council Wednesday night to request some money be returned to the Demopolis Fire Department’s budget after cuts this year.

Tate said the fire department had $252,000 cut in payroll for the fiscal year 2015 budget.

“We have 23 personnel in the department, and we’re one short on our shifts every third day,” Tate said. “Some of our guys are active military and can be called up at any time. Our overtime was high from covering that last year, but we had money turned in on salaries in 2012 and 2013. I just feel like $252,000 is extreme. I’m requesting some money be put back in the budget to hire another firefighter.”

This discussion was part of a larger discussion about the department’s budget and the downtown fire station. Tate said there are 84 buildings in the downtown historic district alone, and that it’s imperative to keep that station open.

“We’ve had some calls down here in the past in which we’ve been able to keep a small fire small,” he said. “We’re here to protect the critical infrastructure of this city. When we get EMS calls, we’re saving lives, and you can’t put a price on that. We don’t always know where an ambulance is responding from, so we’re the bridge until they arrive. I want to be able to hire more well-trained guys to continue protecting this city.”

Councilman Charles Jones Jr. asked Tate during the meeting that if the budget stays like it is and the department remains understaffed, which of the three stations would he close. Jones added that the department could roll back to how things were before station three was built on the east side of town.

“It’s going to be tough,” Tate said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Jones said he supports both sides of the argument for the station and wants what is best for the city. At the last city council meeting, Jones told a crowd of concerned citizens that the city would not close the downtown fire station and that the staffing of it would be left to Tate.

Mayor Mike Grayson said he wanted to set up a meeting with Tate and the city’s financial committee to discuss what needs to be done.

“We’re 50 miles from the next professional fire department,” Grayson said. “I want to set up a meeting with [Tate] and the financial committee and come to a workable solution. Public safety is our No. 1 concern.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, the council also made some board appointments and nominations for board appointments to be voted on at the next council meeting.

For the two open spots on the Board of Adjustments, the council nominated and appointed Rick Dunn and Major Walker to the board.

The council nominated Jason Windham, Sean Hall, Lee Pritchett and Tom Culpepper for the open spot on the Industrial Development Board following Mike Marshall’s resignation.

For the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, the council nominated Bill Mackey, Jim Parr, Hugh Overmyer and Harrison Coleman. There are three open spots on the board after Chuck Smith, William Martin and Catherine Meador’s terms expired.

The council also decided to choose Bill Meador to represent them on the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority’s newly-formed public entities committee.

In other business, the council took the following action:

•Passed a resolution to move forward with an agreement with The Frazer Lanier Company to partially refund a 2007 bond issue

•Agreed to turn over duties of the garbage contract to the Water and Sewer Board

•Put a bid out for new traffic signals at the intersection of Pettus Street, Arcola Road and Front Street

•Approved making the intersection of Jackson Street and Walnut Avenue a permanent four-way stop

•Approved putting up stop signs and keeping the intersection of Third Avenue and Arcola Road as a four-way stop

•Passed a resolution giving Demopolis Municipal Airport manager Jason Pendergrass permission to pre-apply for a taxiway grant. Pendergrass applied for the same grant last year, and was approved for it, but declined it because the state wasn’t able to provide their 5 percent of the match. The project for the taxiway will cost approximately $1.252 million, and the grant will require a 5 percent match from the state and from the city. The city’s portion of the match would be $62,600, but it could be split over two years.

Pendergrass said the airport’s budget is $10,000 for capital expenses.

“This isn’t a commitment to spending the money,” he said. “This is just a pre-application so they know who is requesting funds. If it’s like last year and the state can’t meet their match, we’ll decline it again because I won’t put 10 percent on the city.”

•Approve three resolutions from Demopolis Police Chief Tommie Reese for reimbursements to be added to the DPD budget

•Mayor Grayson signed a proclamation naming Nov. 5, 2014, First Presbyterian Church Day in honor of the church’s 175th anniversary.