The Cocke County Budget Committee meeting Monday heard from Cocke County Fire Chief Keith Large, who asked the committee recommend money from unappropriated funds in the county budget to fund overtime costs in the department. The budget committee had previously approved a request money be transferred from six other line items in the department for overtime costs.
Large pointed out he cut $90,000 from his budget request last year, however, the budget committee then reduced the budget by an additional $77,000. Because only six months are left in the fiscal year, he asked that half of the $77,000 be restored to fund overtime.
“I’ve transferred money just for built-in overtime costs, no extra overtime. My guys do not get overtime until after 53 hours in a week, and the young employees earn just $18,000 a year without the built-in overtime. They spend a third of their time at the fire department.”
Large said the state has told him the department is understaffed with just five firefighters per shift, but he understands the county can’t afford to hire new personnel.
Mayor Crystal Ottinger said the department is no longer paying overtime to respond to mutual aid calls. Recent requests for fire-fighting assistance from both Greene and Sevier counties were not answered because of limited finances.
The committee agreed to take the request to provide additional funding for the balance of the year to the full legislative body at its meeting next week.
In other action, the committee approved a contract to rent a building adjacent to Diane’s Beauty Shop on Broadway for the storage of documents by the records and archives department. A request by County Clerk Jan Brockwell to hike the salary of employee Chris Hoaglan, from $13 to $17 per hour was rejected. Commissioner Norman Smith suggested the request be made when the year budget request is made.