published Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Complaints spark inspection of Jasper Volunteer Fire Department

Jasper Fire Department
Jasper Fire Department

JASPER, Tenn. — Complaints about excessive response times and the condition of the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department have spawned a review by city leaders.

Alderman Paul West last week told the other members of the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen that he has fielded complaints about response times, but most of the criticisms center on the condition of the city's fire hall.

"I went in it the other day for the first time in years," he said. "It's basically a junk yard with a roof on it."

The city is not getting what it's paying for at the fire hall, West said.

"That's the problem," he said. "If you're going to pay somebody part time, it needs to be more than what we're seeing and what we're getting."

The board and City Attorney Mark Raines conducted an informal inspection of the facility last week with fire department Chief Chris Rector.

Rector said he had no comment about the accusations leveled against him and the department.

Mayor Paul Evans said the fire hall seemed to be "in good shape," but it does have some equipment that has been there for years.

Rector's personal bass boat is stored inside the fire hall, officials said, and that was a source of some of the complaints.

The boat also is used for water rescue situations, Evans said.

"I haven't heard any complaints," he said. "[West] came to me about the complaints, and I told him I'd discuss with the board about taking a tour of the fire hall."

Evans said he and Rains will meet with Rector soon to discuss the allegations.

"There has been a formal complaint filed here, and I think it is going to have to be addressed in a formal situation with the board and the city attorney being involved with it," he said.

The board has not discussed what to do about the complaints yet, Evans said, but it will soon.

"If anybody's got a problem or complaint, my line is open," he said. "Call me, and I will listen. If I don't know it's broken, I can't fix it. I want to know about it."

In August 2007, West was fired as Jasper's fire chief, and Rector replaced him.

West said he hesitated to bring the matter to the board because of his past involvement with the department.

"I never wanted the people who voted me in here to think I was here just to have a hand back in [the fire department], but the complaints have been so much," he said. "I'm looking at what the city has been paying out over there, and I just can't ignore it anymore."

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

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