Cumberland County’s budget committee tentatively approved several nonprofit agency funding requests for its 2019-’20 fiscal year budget.
The Fairfield Glade Volunteer Fire Department was approved for $20,000 after a lengthy discussion. The department had requested $116,111 for operating expenses, $40,000 for new air packs, and $56,111 to purchase P-25 emergency communication radios.
In the past the county has funded the group at $20,000.
Representatives from the department said they work well with the county and had assisted on 10 cases, two minor brush fires and one landing zone to close roads.
Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, asked about the recent case in which $239,000 had been missing from the department?
James Botbyl former firefighter and treasurer of the Fairfield Glade Fire Department was indicted by the Cumberland County Grand Jury and charged with one count of theft of property of more than $60,000 in the indictment.
The indictment states that $239,559.78 is documented as missing from the volunteer department.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but a review of pending charges by a citizen panel called the grand jury that decided there was enough evidence to forward the charge to a higher court for further action.
One of the volunteers attending the meeting explained Botbyl had “cut and pasted numbers.” The volunteers said they have new procedures in place to prevent anything like that from happening again. They were also working to get back the funds.
Sue York, 1st District commissioner, said, “If you have that much money why are you asking us for money? Maybe we should be asking you for money.”
The volunteers explained the funds were raised through fundraising and pancake breakfasts in Fairfield Glade and set aside for purchasing new equipment, such as fire trucks.
Rebecca Stone, 3rd District commissioner and budget committee chairman, suggested if the group was seeking more funding than the traditional donation, it could be considered later under the capital plan.
John Patterson, 9th District commissioner, asked,”What are you doing to recover the funds?”
The group explained they had an insurance policy but had a $50,000 limit and they were working with the court system to hopefully get something back.
Hyder said, “I don’t think it’s fair to the other departments. If we give them $20,000 we should give them all $20,000. Until they get things straightened out I’m not for giving them anything.”
Charles Seiber, 4th District commissioner, agreed.
“It’s like punishing our own department. I don’t see how we can place one over the other,” Seiber said.
Hyder asked, “How do we know the $20,000 the county gave you wasn’t part of that money? I’m sorry, but I don’t feel good about it.”
Stone asked if the committee was comfortable supporting the past request of $20,000.
She also asked about the relationship between the Fairfield Glade and county fire departments.
Trevor Kerley, Cumberland County fire chief, said, “We have worked well with the Fairfield department. They have helped us out a lot.”
Hyder said, “It’s not fair to rest of the county.”
Patterson said, “The past is unfortunate, but I do support them and giving them the funding.”
Stone said, “I would support the past amount.”
Michael Speich, 6th District commissioner, said, “Do we give every civil district $20,000?”
Kerley said no, but the 3rd through 8th districts are supported by the county.
“Fairfield Glade takes care of all of their own trucks, insurance. The county takes care of ours. I can’t say,” Kerley said.
Patterson said, “If you take the fire budget of $300,000 and divide by eight districts, we’re giving them all $37,000.”
Jim Blalock, 8th District commissioner, said the county should treat all the departments the same and be equal.
Wendell Wilson, 6th District commissioner, said, “I have supported them in the past. I have questions. I don’t have problem with the $20,000, but I have a real problem with rest. I’d like to see the results of the audit.”
York said she would support $20,000.
Terry Lowe, 5th District commissioner, said, “They are working on the problem. I would go with $20,000.”
Jerry Cooper, 7th District commissioner, said he wanted to hear more from the department after an audit and said he would not support any funding at this point.
The group voted 5-4 in favor of funding the department at $20,000. Commissioners voting in favor were York, Stone, Lowe, Blalock and Patterson. Commissioners voting against the funding were Hyder, Seiber, Wilson and Cooper.
The committee agreed by consensus to fund the following departments:
•Crossville Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce — $52,500.
•Rescue Squad — $12,000
•HIlltoppers — $17,100
•Veterans Honor Guard — $4,500, increased from $4,000 last year.
•Wags and whiskers — $4,000
•Young Marines — $1,200
•Cumberland County Playhouse — $17,500, increased from last year’s funding of $11,500.
•Avalon Center — $5,000, new funding request.
•CASA — $5,500, new funding request.
•Pleasant Hill Historical Society - $5,000, new funding request.
Commissioners suggested Fair Park Senior Center come back to the committee as no representative attended the meeting.
All request are tentatively approved at this point in the budget process and are subject to be changed prior to the county commission approval.
The committee intends to vote on the full county budget at either its July or August meeting.