Fire department sees eight percent call volume increase, budget requests reflect community growth
By Pam Horne, Managing Editor
Franklin Fire Department experienced an eight percent increase in call volume last year, according to Chief Rocky Garzarek.
The announcement came during the first day of departmental budget hearings before the city’s Finance Committee.
“We have an eight percent increase in our call volume. We can equate that to the number of citizens in our community,” Assistant Chief Todd Horton told committee members during the first round of hearings for the FY2014-2015 department budgets.
“I think it’s the first time we’ve had an eight percent increase. It usually comes in at four to five percent.”
The increase resulted in 642 calls over last year, 70 percent of which are related to medical first responder services.
The increased call volume, in addition to tight budget constraints experienced by the city for the past few years, account for the department’s request for an operational increase of Garzarek later moved the discussion to how his department could better address Franklin’s growing need for more emergency medical response for residents.
“For the last several months Mr. Stuckey has challenged me to work with Williamson County EMS,” Garzarek said. “In order to meet the level of service in this community two ambulances must be added.”
The question posed to the committee, which Stuckey said would be discussed further with the full Board of Mayor and Alderman and county officials, is which local government agency should respond to that need.
Garzarek said that currently sixty percent of the Emegency Medical Service calls generated in the county are located within Franklin city limits.
Williamson Medical Center has overseen the ambulance service for decades with fiscal approval from the County Commission.
The issue of providing city ambulance services emerged two years ago but was not implemented.
Stuckey said returning to the table again to discuss the matter with county officials is something he believes must happen.
“We’re not doing it in a vacuum. We’re doing it in conjunction with the emergency planning the county is doing.”
When aldermen questioned the city’s ability to provide the service Stuckey noted, “it does have potential budget implications, both on the expense side and the revenue side.”
Horton said Franklin currently has enough personnel trained as paramedics and emergency medical technicians to staff the stations, but startup capital for the purchase of ambulances would need to be funded.
The city is working to bring new fire stations on line that could possibly also serve as ambulance stations.
While fire stations two and three, at Murfreesboro Road and Mallory Station Road, have the highest call volume, the addition of neighborhoods in the Goose Creek area has made the fire department’s response time higher than what officials believe is acceptable.
The lack of a fire station within five miles of Ladd Park means that residents living there are forced to pay higher insurance premiums, sometimes as much as $2,000 annually, Horton explained.
Rather than having a Class 2-rated insurance premium like most city residents and businesses, properties located beyond five miles of a fire station have insurance rates set for the more expensive Class 10-rating.
“When we add these next two stations it increases our response times greatly and brings our response times more to four to five minutes,” Horton said, as opposed to more than eight or nine minutes.
Two fire stations already budgeted in the Capital Investment Program are on track to open over the next two to three years, but Alderman Mike Skinner asked from the audience if the second station in Berry Farm could be moved up on the timetable.
More than $3 million has been set aside for both stations from facility tax revenues.
City administrator Eric Stuckey said staff members are trying to finalize property selection and acquisition in the Goose Creek area.
Garzarek said he expects Station 7, located in the Westhaven area, to begin construction in June.
Posted on: 2/14/2014