Marion County fire department gets help from commission

Marion County Commissioner Gene Hargis
Marion County Commissioner Gene Hargis

JASPER, Tenn. -- One volunteer fire department in Marion County was overlooked for funding last year, but now it's going to get some financial help.

County Mayor David Jackson said he met with Jump-Off Community Fire Hall Chief Ben Beavers last month. The department had received $6,607 from the county in the past, Jackson said, but it didn't get any funding last year.

"We've not been able to find out the reason why," he said.

The oversight may have stemmed from "some confusion" about whether or not the Jump-Off unit had merged with the Sewanee (Tenn.) Volunteer Fire Department, Jackson said.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said county leaders were told that the Sewanee department had taken over Jump-Off. Jackson said there's more than a little crossover between the departments.

"A lot of the guys that live in Jump-Off are on the Sewanee Fire Department as well as being on the Jump-Off Fire Department," Jackson said. "I think they're probably due their money."

At the County Commission's March meeting, Chairman Gene Hargis recommended approval of "what is due" to the Jump-Off department immediately without sending the matter to the board's finance committee. The board voted unanimously to give Jump-Off $6,607.

"It was an error on our part," Hargis said. "They are due their money. There is an active fire department there, and they're in pretty dire need. That is our district."

Each volunteer fire department in the county gets a yearly base payment of about $2,500. After that, the departments get additional money depending on how many households they cover.

After surveying the area recently, Hargis said some new housing has been built in the Jump-Off area, and that will probably cause an increase to the department's funding in the next fiscal year.

The board also got an update on the problem of uncollected court fees and fines, an issue identified in a recent audit committee report.

Commissioner Don Adkins said the computer software used by the sheriff's office and the Circuit Court is more than 20 years old.

"That has limited the capability of the collection [agencies] that have come in to pull reports to go out and try to recoup some of these outstanding fines," he said.

Jackson said the software costs about $48,000 per year or $4,000 per month.

Nearby Franklin County has a far superior system and pays far less for it, Hargis said.

"I've looked at their system," he said. "It's better than ours, and they pay $5,000 a year for theirs -- a year."

Commissioners unanimously approved his motion for the board's finance committee to work with the Marion County Sheriff's Department, County Attorney Billy Gouger and the Circuit Court to remedy the problem.

Officials estimate between $2 million and $3 million in court costs have gone uncollected for more than a decade in Marion County.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at

Upcoming Events