JASPER, Tenn. — One city leader in Jasper has reignited his criticism about the condition of the town's fire station, and he's offering to help the fire chief rectify the situation.
At the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's June meeting, Alderman Paul West asked fire Chief Chris Rector if he needed help getting the station cleaned up and "back on track."
Rector said he'd do "anything we need to do" to fix any issues.
"In the United States, you think about momma, apple pie, baseball, and all that," West said. "Well, right up there at the top of it is fire departments. It's as American as you can get. When you go in a fire department, people expect a certain level of service."
West said he was disappointed in the appearance of Jasper's fire station when he saw holes in the ceiling and a bathroom door that appeared to be kicked in.
"I guess the bottom line is we wouldn't tolerate the condition of the fire hall in any of the other [city] departments," he said.
This is not the first time West has publicly expressed displeasure with the condition of the town's fire station under Rector's direction.
In 2013, West's complaints that the fire station was a "junkyard with a roof on it" spurred a formal complaint and a city inspection of the facility.
Since then, West said the building's condition "really hasn't improved."
Rector is a "fine man," West said, and he knows Rector is "up against it" in recruiting volunteers to serve in the organization.
"But there's got to be more we can do over there," he said.
Officials said the board has discussed some ideas to improve the situation at the fire station.
"The board is going to work with [Rector] any way we can," Mayor Paul Evans said. "We've expressed that interest in a work session."
He said he has the "utmost confidence" in Jasper's fire department.
In August 2007, West was fired as Jasper's fire chief and Rector replaced him.
"I'm not looking over your shoulder," West told Rector. "I want to see the membership go up. I want to see people over there [at the fire station]."
"We're taking steps to improve our fire department," he said. "At one time, we did have a good fire department. I want to make sure we give our fire department all the resources that they need to protect this town."
City leaders have set aside funding in the next fiscal year's budget for a "pay-per-call" system where volunteer firefighters are paid $10 for each call to which they respond.
West said the town's volunteer firefighters also need better supplemental insurance.
"It takes somebody special to get up at 2 in the morning and go fight a fire, and then you've got to be at your regular job at 6," he said.
West said that Jasper has not been a strong supporter of its fire department in the past.
"I think we probably need to step up to the plate a little bit as a board [to support it]," he said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org