City celebrates new fire station; worked toward hiring public safety director, may shuffle police positions
On the same eve Mt. Juliet city officials broke ground for the Providence Fire Station they discussed a potential reshuffling of top level police personnel that is an indirect result of on how best to oversee the new fire department.
In the drizzle late Monday afternoon, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and other local dignitaries put shovels into the wet ground at the site of the new fire station slated for a plot of land off Belinda Parkway.
Hagerty told the crowd it was a "watershed moment."
"We have always partnered with Wilson Emergency Management Agency and today is the start of construction of our own firehall. It is a win win situation. The biggest win is for Mt. Juliet because now we will have enhanced fire protection."
Jeff Hall will oversee the construction and Mt. Juliet Vice Mayor James Maness said it "couldn't come soon enough."
He was instrumental in working out an agreement with the county to come to an equitable fire service resolution, with the county planning to provide ambulance service out of what will be a 7,000 square foot fire station.
Hagerty also pointed out that Providence resident Shawn Donovan was to be lauded for creating the current Mt. Juliet Volunteer Fire Department that will be augmented to 25 volunteers to help man this new station. Initially, there will be one fire chief, five firefighters and the volunteers as employees at the station that is estimated to be operational July 1, 2013
At Monday night's city commission meeting, squires discussed an ordinance brought forth by Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin. His ordinance would create a Public Safety Director position that would oversee the fire department chief and the Mt. Juliet Police Chief, who is Andy Garrett.
"It's a trend that is catching on across the country," said Martin on Tuesday.
He noted with the new fire department there will be a shared communication's dispatch system.
"We need one administrator overseeing budgeting," he said. "There would be an administrative assistant and then now we could have a fire chief with boots on the ground and a police chief out in the field with his officers."
This new position would eliminate the current Deputy Chief position held by James Hambrick.
And while there was a resolution recently approved by the city commission to pay the new fire chief $70,000, Martin said that this salary would most likely be reduced to around $60,000.
He said the police chief in Lebanon gets paid $70,000 and there are 93 employees and 44 square miles to protect, whereas Mt. Juliet is considerably smaller. He noted the fire chief in Lebanon gets paid $57,000.
"I see about $60,000 for the fire and police chiefs and about $80,000 for the public safety director position, but of course the city commission would weigh in," said Martin.
The ordinance passed 3-2 with commissioners Jim Bradshaw and Ray Justice voting no. Justice said there needed to be more time to review the ordinance, but he was told that if the vote was delayed this would put the search for a fire chief behind.
Martin said that if the ordinance passes second reading he will post the public safety director position internally and that "Andy Garrett and James Hambrick" would have a chance to apply.
"I think we have enough folks internally who are qualified for this position," he said.
Martin said he realized salary adjustments are difficult sometimes, but "they were a little high compared to other agencies."
"I know some people may be disappointed, people don't like to have their pay altered," he said.
He said the Wilson County Sheriff gets paid $81,000 and oversees the entire county and 300 employees.
"I hope no one perceives it as a pay cut, but that for several years they made a little more than others at other agencies," he said.
Martin noted that there will be a volunteer coordinator position filled at the new fire department and this person will be "very crucial."
Garrett said he had no current comment as he has not seen the official plan.
The fire chief will be posted early December, according to Martin.
Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by email at email@example.com