Washington Co. weighs proposal to add paid shifts at volunteer fire stations

WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Washington County, Tennessee leaders are discussing a proposal to have volunteer firefighters work paid shifts.

Nolichuckey Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Baines said they want to have their stations staffed during the daytime hours, when most volunteer firefighters are working other paid jobs.

“It’s just sort of hit or miss whether there is anybody to go on a call or not during the day. A lot of people are now even working two jobs to make ends meet,” Baines said.

Baines said in order to make sure someone is able to respond to an emergency, they are proposing to have two firefighters staffed at all six of the volunteer stations in the county during daytime hours.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said it is a proposal that would cost the county around $500,000 per year.

“We’re facing an expense associated with this new service something in the neighborhood of $450,000 to $500,000 a year, recognizing that we have virtually no new growth, no new revenue this year, its going to be a challenge to fund this,” Eldridge said.

Tuesday evening, a public hearing was scheduled to further discuss this issue.

Mayor Eldridge said he was hopeful they would be able to find the funding to staff the fire stations with paid positions.

“If they aren’t available, then the risk to life and structure is what we are trying to overcome. I think there will be a lot of time, a lot of emphasis in hopes we can do it this year,” Mayor Eldridge said.

Mayor Eldridge said he expects county leaders to continue to discuss the proposal during upcoming budget meetings in June.

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