After much heated discussion among the commissioners, the dismantlement of the Emergency Services Department was put on hold by the Board of Commissioners for a little while longer.
The BOC deferred the first reading and vote on abolishing the Department of Emergency Services until the next meeting, which was called for Monday, June 28, 9 a.m., and Tuesday, June 29, 10 a.m.
Chairman Richard Oden had words of praise at the June 21 work session for current Emergency Services Department Director John McNeil and the strategic plans McNeil helped put in place for the Fire and E911 divisions. "We've made great strides. I support the director. I support the system," said Oden. "I hear some folks say they were not aware. I beg to differ...Every commissioner gave their recommendations and suggestions."
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness agreed the recommendation was not a surprise but added that cutting the ESD director had been part of a list of ideas. "I think there should have been a plan in place, what our goals were, how the whole organization would have been restructured. I should not have had to come here today to hear about this," said Van Ness. "You're supposed to communicate with all three board members," she said, addressing Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon.
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt said that there was a functioning fire department before there was an emergency services department. "We do not have to have an Emergency Services Department. It will bring about some savings to this county."
He also pointed out that the county needed to continue to make budget cuts "regardless of what the (tax) commissioner brings. The forecast is crystal clear. We don't need to wait."
On Friday, Tax Commissioner Dan Ray released revised rough estimates of the tax digest, with an 8.2 percent drop in the digest from last year. At the current property tax rate of 14.53 mils, there would be a shortfall of about $4.5 million in the county's budget. The $55.4 million general operating budget had been passed last year with an approximate $2 million deficit and the assumption that the milage rate would have to be raised by between .66 and 1 mils.
However, on Tuesday, the commissioners presented a more united front and unanimously voted to defer the disbandment until the next meeting, which was later announced for the morning of June 28 and 29. The commissioners also voted to defer the vote on the retirement package incentive.
"We believe we had wholesome and healthy debate yesterday. However, sometimes we do disagree," said Nesbitt.
"I appreciate the camaraderie and growth since yesterday in the meeting," said VanNess. "We want to work towards putting a unified front in making decisions in a united effort."
In other BOC business:
Charles Russell was reappointed to the DFACS board. Jacob Lawsins, Beverly Richter, and Ifat Walker were appointed to the Board of Adjustment.