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City commission considers fire department request

Dunlap Fire Chief Norman Hatfield requested new apparatus for his department at the Thursday night meeting of the Dunlap City Commission.

Feb. 22, 2019 – The Dunlap City Commission considered several items at an unusually long meeting Thursday night, including a request for new equipment from the Dunlap Volunteer Fire Department (VFD), the 2018 Audit, and ongoing park projects.

About a dozen people attended the monthly meeting, most of which were members of the Dunlap VFD, in support of their chief's request.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Dunlap Fire Chief Norman Hatfield addressed the commission to request a bond that will be paid off this year be renewed to cover the replacement of trucks and air packs.

The immediate need is for a new fire truck, to replace one that was wrecked on the way to a fire last September, but insurance is covering the greater portion of that expense.

The insurance company decided it was best to total that truck,” Chief Hatfield told commissioners.

Although the truck cost $311,000 when it was bought in 2006, and will cost $460,000 to replace today, the insurance company is reimbursing a little shy of $355,000, Hatfield said. And air packs that were purchased by the city in 2002 with a grant are in need of replacement. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) considers the life of an air pack 15 years, he said.

The $2 million bond that the city issued in 2002 for fire department and road improvements will be paid off this year, and Hatfield requested that the city consider renewing the bond for $1 million, which would cover the apparatus upgrades his department needs.

The consensus by the commission was approval of Hatfield's request, but details of financing the upgrades will be taken up at a future meeting.

2018 AUDIT

Chief Hatfield, who also serves as the city treasurer, distributed a copy of the city's state audit for FY2018 to each commissioner.

They did render a 'clean' opinion,” Hatfield commented. “That's basically a good opinion.”

The state comptroller's office reported two findings in its audit of the city of Dunlap: The water department had a net loss, and the books were not closed within 60 days.

Hatfield pointed out that in comparison with surrounding municipalities, Dunlap has a more involved bookkeeping system because the city runs its own gas and water utilities, instead of contracting them out. That makes it difficult to get the books closed on time.

It was a good audit report, and the city is in a good financial position,” he said.

PARK PROJECTS

The city commission had a lengthy discussion about ongoing park projects, reviewing topics that came up in a working session three weeks ago regarding Harris Park Phase 2, Streetscape 2, and the Multi-Modal improvements.

Commissioner Allen Jones explained that $1 million was dedicated to Harris Park Phase 2, but bids came in at $1.4-1.5 million – roughly half-a-million over budget – primarily due to making the project “more elaborate” than initially planned.

Some of the increase in cost has come from a rise in price of materials as the project has been delayed for two years. The deadline for completion is July 1 of this year, although the city has yet to break ground. Commissioners hope to get an extension from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), which awarded a $500,000 grant for the project in 2016.

Mayor Dwain Land said plans now include construction of a new playground at the park, in addition to a children's splash pad, grass in front of the stage, and an enclosed pavilion for a farmer's market and Valley Fest use.

I think we're paying too much,” Comm. Bryan Harmon said. Pointing out that he had looked into what communities in adjoining states have paid for a splash pad, he asserted that the cost to Dunlap has grown too great.

We're paying too much for it,” he said. “We're shooting for the stars, in my opinion.”

The nicer equipment you have in it,” Mayor Land responded, “the more people you are going to pull from out of town.”

I don't care about pulling people from out of town,” Harmon answered. “I'm more concerned about the people of Dunlap. I think it's just too expensive for Dunlap.”

Comm. Harmon made a motion that the city “stick with the original plan,” and cut the project back to within the $1 million limit.

Comm. Jones pointed out that when the city develops attractions that bring in people from outside the town, they spend money that includes sales tax to go into the city coffers, reducing the need to raise taxes.

When the measure was put to a vote, Comm. Bryan Harmon voted for it, but the mayor and all three other commissioners voted against it.

The commission also discussed the Streetscape project, which has also been delayed as bids came in $190,000 over budget, and the Multi-Modal project. None of these are currently under construction.

In other business, the Dunlap City Commission:

The Dunlap City Commission meets the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. CST, in the upstairs commission chambers at Wagner Municipal Building in Dunlap. Meetings are open to the public.

Volunteer firefighters sat in on the meeting in support of the fire department's request for new equipment.