published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Marion County restores fire department funding

JASPER, Tenn. — The disagreement over the funding level for Marion County's rural volunteer fire departments and rescue squad has ended, but county leaders have not decided how the money will be distributed in the future.

The Marion County Commission this week voted to restore the departments' funding to what it was during the 2010-11 fiscal year. That means the county's 13 rural volunteer fire departments will divide an additional $34,519 this year, while the rescue squad will get an extra $2,000.

The funding restoration was approved as two separate budget amendments so the money could be dispersed this week.

"That's so we can move that money now and write the checks," County Mayor John Graham said. "We've been wrestling with this issue for several months, if not a couple of years."

During a budget crunch in 2011, the board cut all of the yearly $193,000 for the volunteer organizations, and it had reinstated only 75 percent of that since.

The board was prepared to restore the remaining 25 percent in November 2013, but decided that the budget amendment under consideration at that meeting was not adequate.

County leaders have been working to update the formula used to distribute the annual funds to the organizations for months, but Commissioner Don Adkins said in November that difficulty getting complete financial records from many of the fire departments delayed the process.

"We've asked that each of these organizations bring us some documentation about the expenses from the prior year," he said Monday.

Adkins, chairman of the board's Finance Committee, said county leaders are going to come up with "a new plan" for allocating the yearly funds among the various departments more equitably in the coming months.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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