In light of recent actions by the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD), Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the BCVFD. The restraining order states that the BCVFD will be restrained from closing any fire stations; selling, donating or otherwise transferring ownership of fire trucks, incident command vehicles or personal property; or taking any action to reduce the current fire protection service levels for the citizens of Bell County.
The motion states that irreparable harm would be done to the Bell County citizens if the previously mention actions take place. According to the document, those harms include possible loss of life and property by fire. It also states that the closing of stations could cause an increase of property insurance rates for the citizens of Bell County.
According to the motion, it is believed that the BCVFD has approximately $100,000 on hand and has sufficient funds to operate the fire stations closed in December 2011 and the stations that were closed recently. BCVFD Fire Chief Rodney Wilder denied that they have any of the money mentioned in the motion document.
In addition to Brownies Creek and Clear Creek, the document states that the BCVFD voted to close the Calloway fire station within 30 days.
Wilder stated to the Daily News that the closing of the stations was necessary to keep the BCVFD operating because of the court fees from the ongoing litigation between the BCVFD and the fiscal court.
“If (Brock’s) so wrapped up in helping the people of Bell County, why don’t he quit filing these lawsuits and sit down with us and have an agreement?” asked Wilder in a interview.
“Albey don’t want to work with the fire department. He wants to fight it in court. As long as he’s going to spend taxpayer money to fight it in court, we will sell equipment to keep this place running,” added Wilder.
Brock stated that he and the fiscal court have tried to work with the BCVFD on multiple occasions.
“It’s obvious, based on recent actions, that until the (BCVFD) realize that the fiscal court will no longer write them a blank check without accountability and realize that they are not private, will this issue be settled,” said Brock. “Unfortunately the only way to settle this dispute, based on the previous actions, is allow a circuit or federal judge make a determination.”
Brock stated that the determination made by the judge would be whether the BCVFD or the taxpayers have the right to the department’s assets.
Wilder did state that he and the board are willing to do anything to keep the BCVFD operating. He added that if things worsen after the closing of Calloway, then they would look to selling properties.
Concerning the issue of Hopes and Dreams Outfitters, Wilder stated that he does not own the property that houses the outfitters company. According to Wilder, he leases property and allows Hopes and Dreams Outfitters to use it.
Wilder also stated that Hopes and Dreams will not be accepting the truck offered by the BCVFD, which according to the fire chief is a 1984 GMC tanker truck.
“The pump has been burned up on that truck for about three years,” said Wilder.
According to Wilder, the tank in the truck has holes in it and there are no batteries in the truck. He also stated that the truck has not run in two years.
“The truck is not worth but $1,500 or $2,000, if that,” said Wilder.
Wilder added that the BCVFD needs to sell the truck for their own good and use. The BCVFD will not sell any Class A pumpers, according to Wilder.
As for the the issues with Hopes and Dreams Outfitters, Wilder stated, “This has nothing to do with Hopes and Dreams and I would appreciate if (Brock and the fiscal court) kept it out of there. Hopes and Dreams is a faith-based company set forth to help disabled people to give them the ability to hunt and do the things we do.”
According to the motion filed and the Kentucky Secretary of State website, Lewis L. Wilder, Mike Wilder, Mike Cupp and Richard Fain are officers of both Hopes and Dreams Outfitters and the BCVFD. Wilder is the Registered Agent for Hopes and Dreams, according to the motion and website.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.