​Monteagle Fire Department Needs Are at a Critical Level

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“We are in an emergency situation. We don’t have a fire truck,” Fire Chief Mike Holmes told the Monteagle Town Council at the Aug. 28 meeting. Holmes said the fire department also desperately needed 10 air packs, a device worn by firefighters to provide breathable air in a dangerous to life or health situation.
The recent repairs to Engine Number One, the fire department’s primary truck, did not solve the problem, Holmes said. Mechanics advised Holmes the 1997 model truck needed a new motor and transmission, estimated cost $50,000-$60,000.
That’s too much to spend on a truck whose ISO rating expires this year, Holmes said.
The fire department’s 1993 truck, used mainly to haul equipment, won’t draw water according to Holmes. Holmes is grateful for the assistance the Monteagle Fire Department has received from Sewanee and Pelham, but stressed, “We need to take care of our own.”
Holmes recommended declaring both the department’s trucks surplus and replacing them with a single truck. Homes found a 2017 demo truck for $379,000 in Murfreesboro and a 2008 truck for $325,000 in the Midwest, but cautioned, “I don’t know when they could deliver it.”
The resale value of the 1997 truck is estimated at $60,000-$80,000, Holmes said. The 1993 truck is worth about $15,000. Acknowledging concerns about the cost of a replacement truck, Holmes noted financing was available at 3 percent interest on a 15-year term.
Vice-Mayor Jessica Blalock said in the past a donation from the Monteagle Assembly helped the town purchase a fire truck.
A visitor said The Bridge had a Community Compassion fund which might be able to provide assistance.
The fire department’s need for 10 new air packs is also of crucial importance according to Holmes. “We’re putting fire fighters’ lives in danger,” he said. The department only has eight functioning air packs; all have exceeded their recommended shelf life.
Holmes estimated the cost for the new air packs at $60,000 and suggested the money from the fire department’s replacement budget could be used for the purchase.
City Recorder Debbie Taylor said she didn’t think there was any money in the replacement budget due to the need for a new building to house the fire department.
Mayor David Sampley agreed the situation was “urgent.” The council will consult with the accountant to discuss the town’s options.
The council approved on second reading the ordinance reducing the term of mayor and alderman to two years and the ordinance requiring fencing to screen from view vehicles and other conveyances in a junked condition. Fencing ordinance violators will be fined $50 per day.
The council also approved the Utility Department’s request for purchase of a Kubota hydrostat tractor from Brothers Implement. The tractor currently used by the Utility Department “has been giving constant problems,” Sampley said.
Brothers agreed to take the current tractor on trade-in reducing the cost to $15,500. The Utility Department’s budget contained sufficient funds to make the purchase, Sampley confirmed.
A visitor asked how urgent the situation was and proposed allocating the money to purchase a new fire truck instead.
“You can’t take money from one department’s budget and give it to another department,” Blalock explained.
Sampley introduced a discussion about motorists speeding on Monteagle’s side streets where the speed limit is 30 mph. Utility Department employees were reluctant to work on Laurel Lake Drive due to the speeding and traffic, Sampley said, and on Fairmont Ave., the “Slow Children at Play” and speed limit signs “had been run down.”
Sampley recommended reducing the speed limit to 20 mph on side streets to ensure “the safety and welfare of the citizens.”
“We need to enforce what we have now,” Alderman Kenneth Bishop said. “Twenty miles per hour is way too slow.”
Blalock suggested lowering the speed limit in specific locations such as around DuBose Conference Center.
Past discussions about lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on Laurel Lake Drive incited strong opposition from residents.
The council voted to lower the speed limit to 20 mph on side streets, excluding Laurel Lake Drive, on a trial basis. Sampley abstained from the vote, explaining he favored lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on all side streets.
The city is in the process of changing the speed limit signs. The speed limit on Main Street (State Hwy. 41) will continue to be 35 mph in the residential and business part of town.
The council meets next on Sept. 25.