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City Attorney Mark Raines discusses the situation with the Jasper fire department's finances at the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's June meeting.
some text Alderman Josh Jennings discusses the situation with the Jasper fire department's finances at the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's June meeting.

JASPER, Tenn. — Problems at the Jasper Fire Department with broken-down engines and equipment have caused a flurry of purchases in recent months, and that has led to confusion among city leaders about how to cover it all, too.

At the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's June meeting, Fire Chief Josh Huffstuddler said Engine 3 is back in service at full working capacity after repairs were made by Randall Brackett Fire Truck Repair in Rockmart, Georgia.

Engine 1 is now there for repairs estimated to cost between $15,000 and $17,000.

Huffstuddler, who was named co-fire chief along with Ryan Meeks in April, said he also had a bill for $22,117 for new turnout gear, including a $945 gas meter, from Tennessee Fire Equipment & Safety Supplies in Chattanooga that needed to be paid, but that was not the original vendor chosen for the purchase.

The original vendor, W.S. Darley & Co. in Itasca, Illinois, quoted a price of about $13,000 for ten sets of turnout gear, Mayor Paul Evans said.

"I didn't order them," Huffstuddler said. "This was before me. I called in at the tail end of it, but it's in my lap now."

Also, Huffstuddler suggested the board allocate $20,000 for the repairs to Engine 1 to make sure the final price is covered.

"That's not saying we're going to spend the whole $20,000 on it, but that's on you guys," he told the board.

Alderman Josh Jennings asked if the board hadn't already approved a $33,000 budget amendment that included repairs to the two fire trucks.

City Attorney Mark Raines said he thought that budget amendment was for more than just the fire department.

"No, it wasn't," Jennings said. "I'm almost certain."

"My memory is not that good," Raines said. "So, whatever the [meeting] tape says is what it was."

According to City Recorder Paula Turney, the $33,491 budget amendment set up by the board in April included three sets of turnout gear and repairs for the two fire trucks.

Some funds for the other seven sets of gear were approved last September.

The previous budget amendment would cover the costs for the new turnout gear and repairs to Engine 3 with about $3,500 left over, Jennings said, but that would leave the balance of the repairs to Engine 1 without much money allocated for it.

The board passed the original budget amendment from April on first reading earlier in the June meeting.

"You're going to have to pass this one, and then do another one for that extra money," Raines told the board. "The purpose of the budget amendment is to bring the line item total up to what it is that you need to pay."

Jennings said the board would need to approve another $13,418 if the costs for Engine 1 came in at $17,000.

"How do you do a line item when you don't know how much it's going to cost?" he said.

"That's exactly what you're doing with this budget amendment," Raines told Jennings. "We don't know that for sure. It's our best guess. It's an educated guess, but it's all we've got to work with."

The board voted unanimously to pay for the turnout gear and the gas meter.

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

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