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Officials with the Bedford Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department turned over financial reports to Trimble County Fiscal Court earlier this month.
On Monday, Nov. 15, the court voted to send the county’s contribution to the department this week.
The financial reports were requested over the summer by Magistrate Nolan Hamilton Jr., who wanted to scrutinize the needs of both Bedford and Milton’s volunteer departments before turning over $15,000 in county funds set aside to help the department offset costs.
Both departments receive $30,000 from the county General Fund annually; each department gets half in July, at the start of the fiscal year, and in January.
Milton VFD turned over financial reports to the court in September; the court immediately voted to send that department’s check after reviewing the documents. Then-Chief Ronnie Barnes protested the request by resigning and retiring from his position.
On Monday, Hamilton explained that he feels the departments are obligated to provide such reports to the court as a prerequisite to receiving the county’s funds twice a year.
“We don’t need them to come in someday and say, ‘We’re broke,’” Hamilton said. “We need to know the financial shape they are in all the time.”
Because the departments operate solely on donations and state and federal grants, “the people have a right to know where their money is spent,” Hamilton added. “I’m not down on them; we’re here to help them as much as we can.”
Judge-Executive Randy Stevens agreed, and asked Hamilton and the other magistrates if the documents provided by both departments – including deposits, receipts and outstanding debt – was enough to satisfy the court.
“I think this gives us a clear picture of their financial health,” Stevens said, adding that neither he nor the court want to be involved with day-to-day operations. “I don’t want to run that fire department.”
Stevens said he has attended meetings at both fire houses and has never been denied information. He suggested that the magistrates should also attend some of the meetings if they are interested in knowing more about how the departments operate.
The court decided that both departments will be required to provide their financial statements every six months, when the county’s contribution payments are due.
The next regular Fiscal Court meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 20.