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Fighting the fire department: Olive Hill residents upset over fire house discussions

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 The purchase of a piece of property near city park, and the possibility that a new fire department might be built there, had some Olive Hill residents in an uproar during a recent meeting of city council. Mayor Jerry Callihan did his best, however, to put those fears to rest. While he acknowledged that it had been a discussion item, he and the Olive Hill council were clear that the only item they had voted to approve was the purchase of the property. They had not approved any use of the property. 

“It’s never been voted on to move the fire house,” councilmember Eric Rayburn said. 

“There’s no finite plan,” councilmember Shannon Shutte added, reiterating that the only thing council had made plans for was the purchase of the property. Shutte added that while she hadn’t made up her mind yet, she wasn’t currently leaning toward moving the fire department. 

Callihan said the city was moving forward with the property purchase. As for relocating the fire house, Callihan also said the city was, “not to that point yet.” 

“Nothing is set in stone, except we’re buying that property,” Callihan said. If it is not used as the location of a new fire house, he said, it will be added to the park property. 

The fire house is currently located in the flood plain, and has been flooded several times over the years, leading to high rates for flood insurance. Fire chief Jeremy Rodgers has made finding a location outside of the flood plain a focus for the department. He said he has looked at several different locations. While some locations may offer good road access, they don’t offer sufficient parking for members he said. Finding a location that offers quick access to major roadways, adequate parking, in a location outside the flood plain has been challenging, he said. It’s why he has suggested the possibility of building a new fire station at the Hignite property. 

Residents who opposed the fire station moving to the location, adjacent to the city park, expressed concerns about fire traffic attracting children and leading to an accident, as well as concerns about the noise of sirens in a residential area. Rodgers answered that there were regularly children around the current fire house, and the drivers were able to handle their presence in and around the station without incident. Regarding concerns over sirens, Rodgers said he could issue orders not to raise sirens until they had left the neighborhood.

Though council had already approved the purchase in a previous meeting, they moved to adopt a resolution regarding the purchase of the property at 273 Hitchins Avenue. The resolution declared it “in the public interest” for the city to purchase the property. Included in the resolution was a stipulation that “all fixtures will remain with the property.” 

In other action council heard updates on the water project, adopted a municipal road aid resolution entering into a contract with the state to receive that aid, and adopted their budget amendment on second reading. 

Council also passed an ordinance reducing the number of code enforcement officers from five to three, citing the difficulty of securing volunteers to fill the position. Anyone wishing to serve on the volunteer board must have been a resident of the city for at least a year, and must remain a resident throughout their term. 

Council also accepted the treasurer’s report – including updates on a pair of upcoming federal funding opportunities – and adopted resolutions extending the FADE contract through the interim period as well as in their new fiscal year, until September 30, 2022. Council also approved a request from the fire department to sell their 1994 ladder truck for $60,000 – at a $10,000 profit for the department– and to purchase a 2014 model truck with a basket attachment for $90,000. 

The court also heard request from citizens looking for minor repairs to basketball goals in the park and possible safety fencing, and discussed the municipal pool. Callihan said the city may not be able to open the pool or the splash pad this summer, because they cannot find lifeguards. 

“We want to open,” Callihan said. “But we’re not sure if we can.” 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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