published Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Jasper Fire Department problems fixed, mayor says

JASPER, Tenn. -- Problems with excessive response times and the condition of the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department have been settled, according to Mayor Paul Evans.

Now city leaders are turning their attention to helping fire Chief Chris Rector recruit volunteers for the department.

Alderman Paul West said last month that he had fielded complaints about inordinately long response times by the fire department, but that most criticisms centered on the condition of Jasper's fire hall, which he called "a junkyard with a roof on it."

"I'm looking at what the city has been paying out over there, and I just can't ignore it anymore," West said in July.

The complaints caused the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen to launch a formal review of Rector and the department.

"The board has met [on the issues], and we toured the fire station," Evans said last week. "I think all the issues have been resolved."

During the review, the board discovered that low membership was the biggest issue facing the fire department, and they talked with Rector about ways to increase it.

"[Rector] would actually like some help getting volunteers," Alderman Steve Looney said. "Any of the public that can help us out with this, we would appreciate it."

Looney said Rector told the board that sometimes only two or three firefighters show up to scheduled meetings.

"Heck, we need 10 or 15 showing up a lot of times," Looney said.

The department has 14 firefighters, Rector said, including two who were approved by the board and added last week.

"You can't get enough people in a volunteer fire department," Looney said. "The more, the merrier."

"I look forward to increasing our enrollment," Evans said. "We've got to figure out some way to get more of our people involved in our volunteer fire department. I'm open for suggestions on how we can do that."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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