Budget Committee debates possible funding of Elizabethton Fire Department

Members of Carter County’s Budget Committee voted to approve every section of the upcoming 2019/2020 County Budget Thursday evening, but conversation sparked over the one line item in the general fund’s “Contributions to Outside Agencies” section marked with all zeros: the Elizabethton Fire Department.

The board reached this section of the budget packet after spending roughly 10 minutes talking about funding volunteer fire departments not in Carter County, such as Butler.

Some board members expressed concern at not sending funding to a fire department that does serve Carter County citizens.

“That is tough,” Commissioner Ross Garland said. “On the flip side of that coin, do they fund our volunteer fire departments?”

After an initial conversation, the board voted 4-4 to approve the zero-dollar funding, leaving the decision in a tie.

“Well, it looks like we would like to give a little bit of money,” Garland said in response.

Other commissioners expressed concern sending money to this city organization might convince other city agencies to ask for similar funding.

“When we were at the Blue Hole, I had a discussion with Mike Simerly about getting members of the commission and council together to discuss issues such as these,” Commissioner Robert Acuff said.

He said conversations like these, with city and county mayors both present, could help alleviate these kinds of concerns in the future.

A motion arrived on the table after that to give the EFD $10,000, which failed 3-5.

“I think, we leave it at zero now, we get together and put our heads together with the city and county folks, talk about it and see what comes from that,” Garland said.

This third motion passed 7-1, meaning current Carter County funding of the Elizabethton Fire Department will remain at zero pending a joint meeting between the city and county governments.

In other conversations, the budget committee voted to give Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership its budgeted $20,000, half of what they received last year, and earmark $20,000 to set aside for possible funding of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

The board said it was unable to fund the board directly at this time because the board does not yet have the ability to accept funding.

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