CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A task force report five months in the making shows how Bradley County Fire and Rescue, Bradley County Emergency Medical Services and the Cleveland Fire Department could be merged into one department and what the cost might be.
The report was handed over to County Commission and City Council members Wednesday during a joint meeting.
“It’s a template, in my eyes, that you guys will have to fine-tune,” banker Julian Sullivan, chairman of the task force, told the panels.
The final full year of a fire contract between the city and county begins July 1. Under that contract, the county pays the city $1.8 million annually for fire services in the county’s five-mile fringe around each city fire station. The county’s combined force of two full-time stations and nine volunteer stations covers the rest of the county.
For months, city officials have asked what city government will do if that $1.8 million goes away.
The local governments created the task force in January.
The proposed organizational chart for what would be called Cleveland/Bradley Emergency Services includes a chief with three deputy chiefs who oversee the three divisions — fire, medical and special services. Special services would include training, arson investigation, fire prevention and support for the volunteers.
The county’s nine volunteer fire stations would be included in a merged department along with the existing five Cleveland and two Bradley County full-time stations, task force member Ron Harrison said.
The accompanying financial calculations show the combined department’s operational costs at $17.4 million for fiscal year 2012-2013.
“We have to consider what it would cost if we go our separate ways,” Councilman Richard Banks said.
County Commissioner Terry Caywood said constituents have asked him what they would gain in return for an increased county fire tax. County residents pay a fire tax, depending on where they live, that is separate from the county property tax rate. The city includes fire services within its property tax rate.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...