A battle over fire department subscription fees has heated up in Anderson County.
Last month, the Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department held a public meeting about implementing the program, which would require homeowners to pay a fee for service. They said without the fees, the department would go bankrupt.
The board of the Andersonville VFD said people are already signing up.
"Some 250-300 homeowners and several businesses have already become members in just the eight days we have been accepting member enrollments," the board wrote in a release Thursday. "In that short period we have raised approximately $35,000. That's more than was accumulated in all of 2012 through donations."
Now, the board has taken exception to what they call informal request by Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank to put the subscription-based fire plan on hold.
On Wednesday, Frank said she's received more calls about the subscription plan than on any other issue. She has asked the department to stop the plan until a "full and thorough hearing and review can be held."
Frank also said the county law director is open to answering legal questions from citizens about the issue.
Now, the Andersonville VFD's Board of Directors has advised Frank to submit a formal request to them two weeks before the next board meeting - the first Monday in January -- if she wants them to consider suspending its conversion to a membership-based program.
The board said the release to the media happened the day after Frank sent an email to AVFD Chief Jeff Bagwell asking him to suspend the program. They said the mayor did not give the board members time to see and respond to the request.
In a response to the mayor, the board wrote, "We now have a responsibility to the growing list of members to fulfill our commitment of providing service. This cannot be taken lightly with an informal email from a county official. The AVFD must follow due process. AVFD Board of Directors' responsibilities to our community and members are foremost, and we hope you understand that as our county mayor. To this end, AVFD would like to request a meeting with you to discuss the fire coverage for county buildings."
They went on to say, "To be honest, halting the duly established plans for member service would mean violating an agreement we have made and padlocking our doors by the end of the year. We are not willing to make that decision without following our established processes and also seeking legal counsel."
The Anderson County Commission's Operations Committee has set a special hearing on the program next Monday, at 7:00 pm in room 312 of the Anderson County Courthouse.
Questions concerning the membership-based program can be addressed by calling AVFD at (865) 494-5235 or Chief Bagwell at (865) 567-5665.