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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Roy Brandon, president of the South Roane County Volunteer Fire Department, said he’s witnessed more than a few financial storms during his time.
“I’ve been at it since ’76, so I’ve seen plenty of ups and downs,” Brandon said.
Now would be one of those down times for South Roane County.
In an effort to make ends meet, Brandon said, the department is planning to cut about five vehicles from its fleet.
“We’ve got about 15 vehicles, so we may cut down to about 10 and different things like that just to make the payments on some of the other ones,” he said. “When you’re volunteering, and you’re depending on donations, it comes to that.”
Each of Roane County’s five volunteer fire departments receive $35,000 a year in contributions from the county government for operating expenditures and capital outlay.
Emergency management director Howie Rose said it takes a lot more than that to run a volunteer fire department.
“South Roane County’s annual operating budget is somewhere around $80,000 a year,” Rose said.
Volunteer departments rely heavily on donations, but that can be problematic in a time of economic belt-tightening.
“The economy being in a poor shape means that people don’t have the disposable income to give to non-profit organizations,” Rose said.
Rose said he met with South Roane County members last week about the financial situation.
“They’re trying to cut back on operating expenses, and they’re going to try to solicit some more donations,” Rose said.
South Roane County was dispatched 223 times between January and November, so the county’s ability to respond to emergencies could be severely hampered if the department was to fold.
If anyone would like to donate to South Roane County, Brandon said they can mail donations to 100 Paint Rock Road, Kingston, TN 37763.
“We’re doing what we have to do to try and keep things rolling,” Brandon said. “If the good Lord is willing, we’ll get through it.”
Rose said if a situation ever emerges in which a volunteer fire department ceases to exist, “it would become the county’s responsibility to provide protection in those areas.”
“We have contingency plans should that happen,” he said.