published Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Charleston postpones fire agreement with Bradley County

CHARLESTON, Tenn. -- Charleston leaders are concerned about a newly proposed contract for fire services with Bradley County. If the contract is accepted, Charleston will get less for its money, city officials said.

In a recent meeting, they agreed to postpone approval of the $25,000 agreement until Charleston Mayor Walter Goode could speak with county Mayor D. Gary Davis about the terms and conditions of the contract.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Charleston is required to insure its volunteer fire hall and is responsible for all major replacement and repairs needed for roofing, air conditioning and plumbing.

In the past, the county committed to taking care of such matters, City Manager Caroline Geren said.

"Well, they said they would do everything, we didn't have to do anything out there," Geren said. "If something tore up, they fixed it. That was the original thing. If they took it over, they took it over."

Goode said the 13-point proposal is much more refined than the simpler agreement that Charleston and Bradley County had abided by for the past several years.

"Bradley County would assume all maintenance cost, all insurances and gas for firetrucks," according to the original agreement issued to Bradley County more than five years ago.

Troy Maney, Bradley County Fire & Rescue's new chief, told Charleston leaders he was not familiar with the proposed agreement and said it was put together during the administration of Troy Spence, the former interim fire chief.

Maney also said that he or another fire department representative would regularly attend Charleston City Commission meetings.

In other business, commissioners discussed alternative uses for the Charleston building previously operated by Dollar General.

Commissioner Donna McDermott said it could be repurposed as an educational center, and she asked about pursuing grant money.

Another possibility would be to incorporate the facility into some kind of shelter for stray animals, Commissioner Frankie McCartney said.

Since the recent end of an animal control agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland -- and the end of animal pickup or drop-off services for residents living outside Cleveland city limits -- there has been an increase in strays in Charleston, according to McCartney.

"We're not the only ones that are dealing with this problem in Bradley County," Goode said. "I can just see the influx of stray dogs showing up, people bringing them and letting them out."

"We have no place to put or deal with them unless they are rabid; then our only option is to shoot them," Charleston police Chief Hank Hayden said. "We're not the dog catchers in this town, and we don't have that available to us anymore."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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