LAKELAND, Tenn. - There were nearly 1,000 emergency calls in Lakeland last year and all those calls were handled by the Shelby County Fire Department.
Currently, Lakeland residents pay $2.4 million a year in monthly fire fees for this coverage.
“Lakeland has a lot of people now, they have projects on the drawing board and I just believe it’s time the community consider a fire department,” said Dennis Wolf, fire consultant.
Lakeland commissioners spent most of the year working with Wolf to set up its own fire department which would have launched next summer.
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Wolf said it would cost nearly three million dollars for the first 18 months to run the department which included start up fees for new staffing and equipment. But in the long run, Wolf said average costs would be closer to $1.6 million a year.
“It would have included the fire department providing what's called responder EMS services. The city of Lakeland receives ambulance service from a separate contract with Shelby County and that would not have changed,” said Wolf.
Wolf was ready to lead the new department as its fire chief but now he's stepping down because Mayor-Elect Mike Cunningham made it clear he didn’t like the idea during the campaign trail:
“What the city of Lakeland is proposing is one fire truck with 12 guys. What you get from the Shelby County Fire Department is fire, ambulance, dispatch, hazmat, where's all that going to come from?” said Cunningham during a recent debate. “I can tell you quick. When you start negotiating with those folks and kicking them in the shins and kicking them out of the fire station, they're going to start laying the fees on us for ambulance service, for dispatch, for maintenance who’s going to fix the fire truck - right? So, don’t be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors going on here because it’s just not going to happen.”
FOX13 reached out to Cunningham for this story but he didn't return our calls or emails.
Wolf is returning to his position as a fire consultant for the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS).
Lakeland's new mayor and commissioners will be sworn in on Dec. 6. Lakeland staff said they don't know if this will be one of the topics they cover after the swearing in ceremony.
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