DANDRIDGE (WATE) – Two fire departments are at odds with their county government over how many fire calls they handle versus how much funding they get, and are now threatening to reduce their coverage areas unless they get more money.
The White Pine and Dandridge fire departments are hoping to avoid cutting service to surrounding portions of Jefferson County. The Dandridge Volunteer Fire Department covers 47 percent of Jefferson County. Dandridge Alderman Jeff Depew says the department responds to over 500 calls a year and that number is growing, but funding isn’t.
“It’s a situation where the funding isn’t sufficient to carry out that kind of service,” said Depew.
The town of Dandridge is proposing a contract service to the budget committee which makes a recommendation to the Jefferson County Commission. The contract calls for $100,000 per year with a five percent increase every year for five years. City leaders like Depew say it’s a fair option.
“We’re funded at a level of $55,000 right now. Over the past few years we’ve asked for more funding and been turned down,” said Depew.
The White Pine Fire Department is also proposing a contract of $75,000 per year from the county. Chief Chad Cotters says if the county and the city can’t come to terms by July 1, White Pine will stop servicing areas outside the city. Cotters hopes to avoid stopping service outside the city limits, and so do county residents.
“Maybe not me, my neighbors or the people that we work or go to school with. Houses can burn down so quickly. It seems like it would be a number one thing in this community,” said Sally Mills.
Both the mayors of Dandridge and White Pine say they don’t want to stop service countywide. The contracts will be proposed to the budget committee on May 22.
The Jefferson County Commissioner’s office has not responded to a request for comment.