CLEVELAND, Tenn. - If Cleveland and Bradley County combine fire, rescue and medical emergency services, more than $9 million in assets should be turned over to the new department, a task force studying the issue agreed Wednesday.

The task force, which includes representatives from both the city and county emergency services, also approved a recommendation that officers from both fire departments enter the new department at their current rank at the time of a merger.

All three local departments - Cleveland Fire Department, Bradley County Fire and Rescue and Bradley County Emergency Medical Service - turned in lists of their assets.

Julian Sullivan, task force chairman, said his own quick calculation showed roughly $4.85 million in city assets and $4.87 million in county assets would be involved. The assets include trucks, property, gear and all other equipment.

"But somebody needs to audit that," he said.

The task force agreed both the city and county governments should turn over all assets to the future board of directors for the merged department.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis compared transferring fire assets to the local governments' turning over development land to create the city and county Industrial Development Board.

Louie Alford, County Commission chairman and a task force member, proposed that officers keep the same rank, at least initially.

"Everybody should start out on an equal footing," he said.

The task force agreed on a 7-2 vote.

But such transfers could create personnel problems, said Ron Harrison of the Cleveland Fire Department and a task force member. He and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland voted against the proposal.

Training at each department may be different, Harrison said, so someone who transfers into a command position in the new department may not have the same level of training as others who would suddenly be below them in the command structure.

Cleveland Vice Mayor Avery Johnson said there should be some time - 12 to 18 months - for officers in the new department to "come up to whatever is the best standard." Johnson's suggestion was not part of the vote, however.

The task force continues to work its way through salary and organizational issues. Both local governments set a May 25 deadline for the task force to make its recommendations.

Contact Randall Higgins at or 423-314-1029.