by Mel Griffith
The Bradley County Commission's efforts to provide fire protection for the citizens get stranger and stranger. The Commission devoted a lot of effort to figuring out just how long a contract with the city should be. A much more important question seems to have escaped the commission entirely. That is, why would a county which has plenty of fire stations and equipment to provide its own fire protection, contract with someone else who has fewer fire stations and less equipment and who charges an excessive price? The explanation seems to be that some commissioners are more interested in a good deal for the city than in fair treatment of the county taxpayers. After spending millions of taxpayer dollars and using thousands of free man-hours to build the county fire department, the commission apparently plans for it to spend most of its time watching from a distance as the city fights county fires.
The county plans to hire some paid firefighters to be stationed downtown, far from the rural fires they are supposed to fight. They apparently won't be able to respond to fires anywhere within a reasonable distance, where they could arrive in time to do some good.
Forming the county fire department was a good idea, but the commission seems to have since developed a severe allergy to good ideas, preferring instead to replace each bad idea with a somewhat better bad idea. First there was the disaster of turning the volunteers over to the mercies of the city fire chief, who hates volunteers. That bad contract was replaced by a somewhat better bad contract which overpaid the city for doing what the county should have been doing anyway. Now there is a better bad contract which at least starts having the county firefighters (note to some commissioners, they aren't all men, so stop calling them firemen) take over full responsibility for a little of the county, though that area will be shrinking as the city builds new fire stations with the money generously provided by county taxpayers.
A majority of the commission is apparently not even contented with the present massive giveaway to the city of county taxpayer money. Now a majority seems to want to give the city the fire department as well. This proposed giveaway is politely referred to a "consolidation." Don't let that fool you. If it happens it will be a flat-out gift to the city. Don't believe any of the disingenuous disclaimers that "we don't really know who would be in charge of a consolidated department." We all know that the city fire chief would be in charge, otherwise the city would never agree to the plan, and his first priority would be to send the volunteers packing. It is understandable that commissioners who represent city districts would put the interests of the city ahead of those of rural taxpayers, but it is a mystery why some commissioners who represent a substantial rural population would also do so.
Whenever the irrational behavior of the commission is questioned, the magic ISO rating is trotted out and we are assured that all our insurance premiums will skyrocket unless the city gets a fire contract. This despite the fact that there is lots of insurance available from companies that pay no attention to ISO ratings. If someone's current insurer insists on ripping them off because of ISO ratings, all they have to do is change to one that doesn't. Most companies probably wouldn't have to lose many customers before they lose their love for ISO ratings.
Sadly, most people will pay no attention to what is going on, but then complain when it is too late.