That’s the word most used to describe the first time ever meeting of the Fulton and Hickman Fiscal Courts and City Councils of Hickman, Clinton and Fulton. Twenty five elected officials came together on a rainy Tuesday evening to eat, meet and discuss issues of mutual importance.
Fulton Mayor Dan Voegeli (photo at left) served as the host and the initiator of the unprecedented meeting. Two issues were on the table: centralized dispatch and recycling.
Recycling came up because Voegeli heard about it while he was going door to door campaigning. The Mayor invited Dennis Kosta, head of the custodial program at University of Tennessee at Martin to discuss the university’s recycling program which Kosta leads.
The program called “Project Recycle” began in 1991 and has grown steadily. Kosta estimated that the university saved $71,000 in dumpster fees the first year and would save $150,000 this year on dumpsters. The first year, the recycling program pulled out fifty two tons of materials. In 2008, that number had risen to 300 tons. After a recent “dumpster dive”, Kosta said that he believed that the program could still cut garbage by another 50%. Kosta had numerous recommendations for getting started. He urged patience and public information.
“We’re always doing something to let the public know about the program.” He told his audience. Project Recycle uses a mixture of student workers and women on welfare. The women drive the bobcat and run the baler, he said. (At left, Dennis Kosta, UT Martin)
Judge Pruitt related the Hickman experience of 1989-1991 when Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman Counties made a joint effort at recycling. Because the market dropped on buying recycled items, the company picking up the recyclables dropped out and the program ended. Pruitt said a later effort to leave a bin out for recyclables resulted in household garbage being left in the bin. Kostas agreed that without supervision, garbage would be a problem.
“But don’t let some people’s bad acts keep you from doing the right thing.” He told the officials.
Fulton County Judge Gallagher suggested the group appoint a committee to visit the Martin facility and one in Union City and return with recommendations. That suggestion was accepted by the group.
The second issue, centralized dispatch of emergency vehicles, has been a bubbling problem for years. Presently, a call to 911 goes to the Mayfield State Police Post and is then routed back to the proper agency. Police, fire and ambulance workers in attendance expressed discontent with the present system and urged those present to, in the words of one emergency worker “put boundaries aside and do what’s best for the people.”
A past study of Fulton County called Hickman the better place in that county to put a central dispatch. The geography and topography of the county was the deciding factor in the recommendation.
That didn’t sit well with all concerned. One audience member wanted to know what support central dispatch would have in Hickman. He reminded those listening that Fulton has an airport, major highway, rail lines that are all cleared quickly in bad weather and a Wal-Mart.
Mayor Voegeli said he was not there to urge that Fulton become the site. County Judge Gallagher said nothing can be decided until Hickman County decides whether to be part of the program. If so, then a second study may be needed.
Fulton Chief of Police Terry Powell said that in 2013 a technological change demanded by the federal government will mandate equipment changes. Another officer said that with a two county dispatch, grants that the small agencies could not hope to get are in reach.
Hickman County Judge Pruitt told those present that dispatch in Hickman County is being handled at the Hickman County Detention Center. If the dispatch center is moved, Hickman County government will have four and a half employees to pay in full because they will no longer have income from dispatch services.
All agreed that the 911 funds that were once a mainstay of emergency operations centers were decreasing because the funds are derived from land line phone assessments and land line phones were becoming increasingly rare.
At the end of the evening, all that was agreed was further study is needed and that Hickman County should decide whether it would be part of a multi-city county dispatch center or not. No date was set for another meeting.
Tuesday October 13, 2009 may be historic for being a one time event. Those attending the meeting came away hoping that would not be the case. Working together across county lines and city boundaries may become a necessity as federal, state and local budgets tighten.
At right, four Hickman City Council members next to five members of Hickman County Fiscal Court.
Below, Members of Clinton City Council listen to presentations.