The April board of mayor and aldermen, BOMA, meeting was contentious from the start with citizens expressing concerns over the proposed planned unit development, PUD, with an extension of Creekside Road and funding a full time fire department.
Concerns with the extension are that it will become a short cut for people in traffic along Rocky Fork Road, during rush hours and school times, endangering children along the narrow roads. Several citizens pointed out that traffic apps such as WAZE often route people through neighborhoods to avoid traffic, making the case that it will not only be locals who use the road.
Other residents voiced support for a paid fire department, mentioning a need for shorter response times, the increased call volume and safety concerns in volunteers rushing to arrive at the station when a call is received.
During the discussion of the PUD with the Creekside connector an amended plan B was approved that did not connect through Creekside. The amendment would provide a de-acceleration lane for those turning into the PUD.
In discussing the proposed budget several things were listed, including two new police officers, the Sunset Road project, office computers, police cars, raises for employees, increased funding for the VFD, and purchasing a new tractor. The annual budget is nearly $4,000,000. The checking account has about $130,000 and fund reserves are 6.8 million, enough to fund the budget for about a year and a half should development stall in Nolensville.
Jason Patrick spoke about the budget and the fire department issues. As a bit of history he talked briefly about the Sunset Road construction.
In 2012 a road study was done on the roads maintained throughout the city. The cost to repair the roads was estimated to cost well over one million dollars. It was assumed that Sunset could have been repaved for around $300,000. On a deeper look it was discovered that the true cost was $10,000,000. He mentioned this to say they should not leap into any decisions without a deep look at all angles to be sure the move they make is the correct one.
Also in 2012, there was an MTAS study with a number of recommendations. The report looked at transitioning to a full service fire department. The report said the town could not afford to cover the cost of a fire department, in 2012. Option two was a minimum of four firefighters, the third was to contract for services, which is what the town decided to do, and still does.
The report does not say when the need for a full time department is needed. Trigger points mentioned were response times and number of apparatus needed, buildings of a certain height. At that time the NVFD had an ISO class 5 rating, this is in the top 30% of towns in Tennessee. Since that time the VFD is now an ISO class 4, an improvement. Tommy Dugger mentioned that Burkett place on the Davidson County side is an ISO Class 10.
Since 2012 the fire budget is up 78% and police 176%. Patrick explained the budget in detail and pointed out that there is no hidden reserve. Once the Sunset Expansion is done most of the money on the balance sheet is spent. Also, it was pointed out that the existing fire department building is not owned by the town, it is owned by the county and is on land owned by the county. If the town does move to a full time department then there would be a good chance the town would need a new structure and land purchased. The equipment the of the NVFD has been purchased with taxpayer dollars from the town, county and from donations from town residents. It is not owned by the town. The NVFD operates as a 501C3 organization and the equipment would be considered the property of the NVFD. Where those resources go should the town create a full time department would be one of the discussions.
Derek Adams suggested cuts in the budget to save funds, only hire one new police officer, buy a needed tractor over time, cut PIO job, and cut town events budget, in order to hire a full time fire chief. He also read the town administrator position and suggested that the Town Administrator the city is looking for take on the responsibilities of the requested PIO position.
Other members of the board said they’d not like to see the budget cut on the town events or police. They did agree that merging the PIO and Town Administrator is worth consideration.
One compromise solution mentioned was seeing if it would be possible to get an ambulance located at the fire station as many of the calls are medical in nature.
As the discussion was winding down Tommy Duggar made the comment that there are a lot of moving parts to consider with making a full time paid fire department, one of which is that if the town creates a fire department then the developments outside the town limits would not be served by a town FD and would still fall under a volunteer department.
The discussion got heated and two members of the audience were escorted for refusing to maintain decorum during the meeting.
The proposed budget passed first vote with only Alderman Adams opposing.
by Harrison McClary/News & Observer