When asked how they could end a meeting without addressing the public, newly elected president Mike Cupp stated that it was because they are a private corporation.
Executive Court Judge Albey Brock stated that they are classified a 5013C, a non-profit organization.
“That does not make you private,” said Brock. “That makes you a 5013C.”
Brock also stated that the department is entrusted by the people to run the fire department.
“The tragedy in it is that now you guys are thinking that it’s yours and that they (the citizens) got nothing to do with it,” Brock said.
Kathy Warren, who owned a building in Arjay, had a building that was severely damaged in a fire on January 1.
“If we had a fire department in Arjay, I wouldn’t have had such a big loss,” said Warren. “Now since you are a private corporation, do I need to sue you for that (damage done to her building)?”
Warren stated that she was thankful for what was saved, but she also said that she had a big loss.
There were heated exchanges between the audience and the board members. At one point, board member Richard Fain shouted “shut up” to the audience so Mikey Wilder could read a letter from federal court.
The audience called for funding cuts to the BCVFD. Others stated that a new fire department should be set up.
Brock did receive permission from the fiscal court to purchase emergency fire trucks and equipment from the fire protection fund in case they are needed.
The subscription fee was also discussed after the meeting. The subscription fee is a voluntary fee.
For the subscription fee to be mandatory, it would have to pass through fiscal court. In the recent fiscal court meeting, the magistrates stated that they would not vote for a mandatory subscription fee.
The board declared, as they have in the past, that the reason for the closing of the two fire stations (Arjay and Colmer) is a lack of funding. The board agreed to sell four acres of land at Arjay.
In the fiscal court meeting, Brock stated that the fiscal court pledges to the BCVFD to pay all necessary legal expenses to keep all stations opened, but maintained that they will not allocate money to the BCVFD as long as stations remain closed.
It was also emphasized that the fiscal court has allocated over $5 million in tax dollars to the BCVFD since 1978.
Another issue that the board stated was a lack of volunteers.
Charles Collett handed in his resignation as a board member during the meeting, and cited backbiting from fellow members as his reason for resigning. Collett pledged to stay on with the fire department as a member.
Many of those in attendance were also angry because they could not hear what was being said during the meeting.
“I come to this meeting to try and get first hand knowledge of what I need to know in this community. I’ve been in this meeting and I still don’t know anymore than what I did when I first come up here because I have hard of hearing,” said one man.
As things began to escalate, Brock addressed the public and stated that arguing with the BCVFD Board of Directors would not change the direction of the embattled organization.
“We can stay in here all night long fussing with these guys, and I promise you nothing will change. The fiscal court is doing all that it can from a legal stand point to try and settle this,” said Brock. “It’s obvious that there is a disagreement. They believe they are private. The fiscal court and the majority of you folks don’t think they are.”
The meeting ended with an understanding by all parties that the disagreement will only be settled in a court of law.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.