The Fort Oglethorpe City Council turned down a request Monday night to spend $5,000 annually for police and fire chaplaincy service through Southern Cross Ministries.
The Council split 3-2 over whether the counseling provided to city emergency personnel and victims' families warranted the expense.
"Five thousand dollars ain't nothing compared to putting your arm around someone when they're in pain," said Councilman Johnnie "Red" Smith, who along with Councilman Louis Hamm supported the contract.
But Councilman Charles Sharrock said he understood that other Fort Oglethorpe pastors have volunteered to come forward and do the service free of charge. Sharrock, Early Gray and Eddie Stinnett voted against the contract.
Neal Brown, the organization's senior chaplain and the pastor at Cedar Hill Baptist Church, said Southern Cross would continue to provide chaplaincy without payment.
"It's just a money issue to them," Brown said following the vote. "We're $5,000 out of a $13 million budget."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.