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May 3, 2014

City of Tool holds public hearing regarding fire departments

Athens — The City of Tool held a public hearing on Thursday to discuss the resignations of the City of Tool Volunteer Firefighters. The 10-minute meeting took a turn, when the citizens who signed up to speak were told they could only answer a yes-or-no question.

The firefighters, all but one, resigned about two weeks ago, amid some contentious disagreements with Mayor Tamra  Brickey. Brickey attributes the bad feelings to “Politics.”

According to Brickey, the city is being served by the Tool Volunteer Fire Department. The Tool VFD is a different entity from the City of Tool VFD.  Tool VFD is supported by the Emergency Service District IV.  The City of Tool VFD is supported by the City of Tool.

Some residents say the problem is the two fire departments.

The agenda for the public hearing read, “Open public hearing for citizens to comment on the future development of their City of Tool Volunteer Fire Department.”

The rules on the public hearing, as released to the media, stated:

• All discussion will be limited to answering of the following question, “Would you like to see the City of Tool Volunteer Fire Department continue in existence...Yes or No?;

• You must sign up in order to speak during the meeting;

• Comments will be limited to Citizens currently residing within the city limits of the City of Tool;

• You will be called to speak in the order in which you signed up;

• You may not begin speaking until you have been recognized by the Mayor to do so;

• Citizens will only be allowed three minutes to speak, and must speak into the microphone;

• ,This is not a debate. There will be no bashing or down-grading of any other entity whatsoever.

The statement went on to say, “This meeting is being recorded with both audio and video recording devices. Any person in violation of these rules, including Elected Officials, will be escorted out of the building by an officer, and not allowed back in.”

Brickey said, “I take total responsibility on how this public hearing is handled.”

In a statement released by Mayor Brickey, she said,  “The purpose of this meeting was to allow the citizens’ voices to be heard, and was a direct result of the action taken by the City of Tool Volunteer Firefighters, their leaders and their choice to collectively resign without notice.

“My platform as mayor in the City of Tool is, and always has been, to do what is in the best interest of the citizens, without personal regard. I have made a choice to ignore the negative comments and attacks of those who think otherwise, and focus my energy on more constructive efforts that will help move the city forward. I am in high hopes that a solution to this issue will soon be reached, and will satisfy the desire of all invested parties.

“As I have stated in the past, I do have an open-door policy. I welcome constructive criticism, and encourage the citizens of Tool to utilize the opportunity to come and speak with me when they have concerns.”

Tool resident Clarissa Gordon said, if she wasn't allowed to state her opinion at the public hearing, she would talk to the newspapers and contact the television stations. Gordon and her husband, Donald, were part of the City of Tool VFD that resigned.

Donald Gordon said in his resignation letter  he was resigning because of the departure of Shaun and Rick Williams.

In his letter, Gordon wrote, “They both are great leaders, and had many great ideas for this department, and I was seeing the growth of training and knowledge this department was doing, not just within, but also seeing the training we were doing with other departments that we mutual-aid with. This city will once realize that they have ones with personal agendas, and sadly, the citizens will feel the loss.”

The 11 citizens who signed up to speak all stated they were in favor of retaining the City of Tool  VFD.

Treasurer of the Tool VFD Michelle McClain, who did not speak at the meeting, told the Review,   “My husband Rodney and I were members of the original fire department before the disagreement occurred, and we split.  We are also citizens and taxpayers in Tool.  The ESD was voted in by the citizens of Tool to provide fire service to the citizens of Tool and the county residents.  We have done that ever since the two departments were formed.  The city of Tool does not need two fire departments.  As a taxpayer, I am tired of paying taxes that fund two departments.  The money allotted for the city fire department should be used for city needs. The disagreement between the two departments needs to stop. The citizens are paying good money for fire protection, and I feel that the ESD has done that, and will continue to do that.  I am tired of hearing rumors about our department not having good equipment or trained personnel. That is not true, and I encourage the citizens to come see the department and meet us.  We have always been open to anyone coming and asking questions.  We are here to serve the citizens of Tool and the county residents.  If someone has an emergency they need to call 911 for the dispatcher to tone us out.  The fire department has meetings every Monday night at 7.  We train on the first, second and fourth meetings, and our business meeting is on the third Monday of every month. Citizens are also welcome to come to the ESD meeting, which is the third Tuesday of every month.”

The battle of the two fire departments has taken to social media to have their cases heard.  The issue of which fire department will protect the citizens of Tool may not be settled until after the May 10 city election.  The city has three council seats available with seven people vying to fill those seats.

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