White Pine Town Budget HearingsI have just returned from the morning session of the annual ritual in the Town of White Pine heretofore known as the city budget hearings. Much of what occurred this morning was expected, and there were no miscarriages of justice on the city's part in failing to properly fund city services. There are, however, derelictions of duty on the part of the Jefferson County Commission that could cause the city more than a bit of grief.
Most of our County Commissioners don't regularly visit White Pine or Baneberry, hence they are unaware of how our Volunteer Fire Department functions (it is actually a department of city government, which makes it different than other volunteer departments in Jefferson County, and Baneberry is a retirement community whose small group of citizens can barely lift a firehose-hence, we have a standing mutual aid agreement with Baneberry-they provide a fire station, truck, and gear for themselves, we help them with manpower).
This lack of visitation by county officialdom probably explains why 10th District County Commissioner Robert Beeler insists on behaving in a manner resembling a mule's behind, giving Chief Cotter and Chief Brady grief over signing an interlocal agreement that the Tennessee Municipal League says is absolutely necessary if they are to insure our firefighters and first responders when they respond to a call outside the city limits of White Pine. County Commission was set to approve an interlocal agreement today that will last until June 30th. They must approve one that will last beyond that time period as well, or after June 30th our men and women will not be insured if they respond to a county fire call. That means that the Town of White Pine will not be sending its firefighters and first responders on any calls outside of the city limits if there is no interlocal agreement in force. If the Jefferson County Commission fails to approve and interlocal agreement with the White Pine Volunteer Fire Department, they will then be forced to explain to the people of the 3rd District who live outside of the White Pine city limits why they will no longer have any fire protection.
If you live in the Town of White Pine, your sewer rates may soon increase. No one in the room liked that idea, but the cost of some of the chemicals that the EPA is now requiring the White Pine Water and Sewer Department to use cost an enormous amount of money-and they have just increased in price. Not all of these chemicals are absolutely necessary to clean our sewage, but the EPA says we must use them. All hail, oh great and powerful federal government, thine unfunded mandates we labor to fulfill in glory, praising thy tyranny as we go!
The cost of fuel is increasing the cost of all things in the city budget, including the cost of our garbage trucks, police cruisers, and of course our fire engines and trucks. Nearly every city department is budgeting $4.00 a gallon for fuel next year. I'm praying to God that isn't a sign of things to come, but I suspect that to our detriment it probably is. To the credit of Mayor Stanley Wilder and White Pine's Aldermen, there has been no talk this morning of an increase in taxes, but there has been talk of an increase in the tax base with the likelyhood of the development of Exit 4 off of Interstate 81 and the possible building of a new subdivision.
Police Chief Charlie Epps says his Department has budgeted for the lease of some new, more efficient cruisers-rotating old ones out of the fleet two or three at a time.
Alderman Jerry Calfee, longtime fireman and servant of the community, continues to insist that he will not run for another term on Council when his current term expires this year. Who, I wonder, might replace him......