The public comment time during the September Crossville City Council meeting included comments in praise of the Crossville Fire Department and in criticism of one member of the city council.
Downtown property owner Dave Simcox, who serves as the Cumberland County Tax Assessor, registered ahead of time as required for public comment and addressed his criticism at councilman Pete Souza. Simcox said he was not speaking in his official capacity, but as a taxpayer of the city.
Simcox began, “I get a bit emotional over some of these issues because I'm a taxpayer and I'm concerned about my city. Mr. Souza, my comments are directed to you.”
“During my many visits to your city council meetings, I have observed that 90 percent of your actions and votes are in the negative mode especially for a city such as ours struggling to be effective attracting new industries or just growing in general,” Simcox continued. “During your short tenure as a council member, these are a few concerns many of your taxpayers have expressed to me as we slowly watch our city fall apart.”
Simcox then went through a list of questions including “Why did Volkswagen move to Roane Co. and give them 100 Jobs? Why did the recent Westel project fall through and immediately go to Cookeville and receive open arms? Why are existing plants ready to move to Cookeville and take their hundreds of jobs with them? Why has out 75-year-old hospital struggled so and become vulnerable to take over? Why is our education system on 73 percent free and reduced lunch and what image does this give to our prospects? Why can we not build an infrastructure street so to attract industries without a fight of stop, start, stop, start? Why is our economically sound sister city of Fairfield Glade even willing to spend thousands of dollars to seek incorporation just to get a way from you? Why is my city being painted as a cartoon script with a black cloud (distrust, doubt, deception and dishonesty)?”
Simcox continued, “Mr. Souza, it has been reported that you have done mountains of research, spent large sums of your own money, called on special city staff participation to research and document past history of city council meetings. You have asked for the legal service of our local district attorney to validate your perceived city corruption. You have asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to research your personal perceptions and now for the past six months you have involved the state comptroller’s office with your allegations. Could it be, Mr. Souza, that you are the problem here?”
Simcox continued, “I do not know your experience in war, but in mine, words like distrust, doubt, deception, dishonesty and lack of leadership gets good men killed and missions to fail. And you're a Vietnam solider and you understand these things.”
Souza answered back, “I never was a soldier; I was a Marine.”
Simcox ended with a question, “As a city elected official, will you please respond to your March 11, 2014 quote, 'If all higher up authorities concur with the grand jury I will resign.'”
Souza began his response, saying, “Given your juvenile behavior in your office when I was down there to see you, it is apparent we have personal enemies and as far as I'm concerned you are persona non grata with me. As far as the investigations are concerned, you can bet that never dies. And that's all I've got to say.”
Councilman Jesse Kerley began to question Mr. Simcox, asking, “Did you come up with all this on your own or is someone pulling your strings.”
Simcox tried to respond to Kerley and the two men talked over each other until Mayor J.H. Graham III gaveled for order as Kerley and Simcox both tried to gain the floor to speak.
Simcox said, “No one needs to write my speech on these issues. I can't believe you would ask that.”
Kerley then stated he felt Simcox was blaming Souza for issues that's been going on before Souza's time on the council.Graham then asked for a motion to adjourn. That motion was quickly made by Souza and seconded by Kerley.
There were four people signed up for public comments, but two of those did not speak. The other speaker was Dr. Mark Fox, medical director for the Crossville Fire Department, who said he wanted to update the council in light of the recent ISO report. Fox said the department had worked very hard and moving from a 4 to 3 rating was “very commendable” and “hard to keep” because of the constant re-certification and retraining requirements.
Fox also talked about the ISO requirements and best practices. “Best practice is to try and be within 2.5 miles of a fire station. If a road mileage from a station to the furthest out property can be brought into the 5 mile coverage, that is excellent, but if it takes an apparatus more than 6 minutes to get there, you're still dinged somewhat on your rating."
Fox told the council that the city's first responder program “sets the standard in Tennessee in terms of training and equipment.” Fox also pointed out that, with additional personnel, the city could use smaller vehicles to go out on first responder calls as the council has been concerned about running the large fire trucks. To keep staff ready to cover other emergencies, the large trucks are used.
Souza said he would support the department requesting additional man power and smaller trucks for the first responder program in the next city budget.