It lasted more than four hours, but in the end the Fayetteville City Council Wednesday night voted 3-2 against consolidating the city’s fire department with Fayette County fire services. And the crowd roared with approval.
The council chambers were packed to the point that many filled the foyer and spilled over into the area just outside the building where speakers had been set up for the overflow crowd to hear the proceedings. The nearly 250 in attendance were a mix of city residents, business owners, firefighters and their families.
Approximately 40 people took to the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting which consumed the bulk of the proceedings. To say that passions ran at nearly a fever-pitch would be an understatement, with all but one of the speakers adamantly rejecting the idea of consolidation.
In the end and just after the council began to discuss the issue Councilman Ed Johnson said,” I’m incredulous that we’re discussing (consolidation) after putting it down two years ago. Why it came up for a vote bewilders me. Maybe it’s because there are two new councilmen.”
Johnson then made a motion to defeat the proposal to consolidate.
Though Mayor Greg Clifton tried initially to stop the motion by telling Johnson he had not been recognized, Clifton quickly relented. It was then that the two new councilmen wasted no time in making their positions known. Councilman Scott Stacy seconded the motion and Councilman Jim Williams minutes later referenced a comment made by county historian Carolyn Cary earlier in the meeting.
“I think the most important thing that came across tonight was near the beginning of the meeting when someone said ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Williams said. Again the crowd roared with approval.
The discussion that followed included comments by Councilman Paul Oddo and Councilman Mickey Edwards, both noting, among other things, the potential of having to increase property taxes by the projected $48 or perhaps more if consolidation did not occur. And the crowd roared again, this time voicing their approval that taxes be raised if needed if it meant keeping the fire department under the city’s control.
Clifton then attempted to inject the idea that a vote Wednesday night would be to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the county that could be voted on later. That assertion went nowhere and the vote on Johnson’s motion followed almost immediately.
Voting in favor of turning down the move to consolidate fire services were Johnson, Stacy and Williams. Oddo and Edwards were opposed. Clifton then congratulated the audience and the meeting ended.
For a more detailed version of the proceedings please check next Wednesday’s edition of The Citizen.