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Posted on: May 2, 2019

Nolensville residents demand more funds for fire safety in public meeting

NOLENSVILLE — After last month's aldermen meeting, Heather Bates sat in her car with her fingers flying across her phone's keyboard. 

While coming to aldermen for another issue, she sat through the entire Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, where discussions continued over having some paid positions within the current Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department. 

More: Nolensville faces turning point in growth: Is it time to pay firefighters?

"There were several things I found last month of to be a cop out to justify why BOMA would choose to wait on moving forward with a combination department or fully funded department," she said. "The need to plan for a fire department has been known for the last seven years. To tell the citizens of Nolensville to wait for another study is outrageous."

Bates was also one of residents during a public hearing Thursday night for Nolensville's budget. With Williamson County's population booming, volunteer departments have become increasingly important in Nolensville, Thompson's Station and the unincorporated areas of Bethesda, Peytonsville, College Grove and Grassland.

Officials with the volunteer fire department reported Thursday night that calls compared to this time in 2018 have increased by 10 percent. In total, the department answered 258 calls in 2019, three of which happened before Thursday night's meeting. 

Nolensville former fire chief Brian Moat argued to aldermen in April that the town should have a full-time chief and paid personnel in the upcoming year's $3.7 million budget.

He wasn't the only one. 

Resident Caitlin Luszczek stood Thursday night in front of aldermen, asking elected officials to use money originally allotted to the general fund to help increase expenses to the department. Police and fire already receive $1.6 million, or half of the general fund budget. Law enforcement receive the majority of the budget. 

More: How Nolensville went from quiet town to booming in the last 5 years

"There’s a difference of $225,000 in our expenses from our revenues," Luszczek said. "Mr. Mayor, you said that the budget must be balanced. Our revenues exceed our expenditures. That’s money we could give to the department. Everyone gets what we want, and we can give them that money with this budget. Instead of choosing to give that money to the fire department, you’re putting into the general fund. You have the opportunity and you’re choosing not to."

Luszczek additionally argued that a new position for a public information officer was unnecessary, and the $45,000 could turnover to the fire department. Both she and Bates argued that the town administrator position — which was recently vacated by Ken McLawhon — would include the duties of a public information officer. 

"We can’t expect someone to set up meetings for free, but we expect someone to do the job of fire chief for free," Bates said. "This town has immediate needs. It’s insulting to the citizens of this town that the public information officer duplicates the duties that is expressed."

Aldermen will meet to vote on the second reading later this spring. 

, Nashville TennesseanPublished 8:38 p.m. CT May 2, 2019 | Updated 8:05 a.m. CT May 3, 2019 

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