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Local chief gives update on Obion County, TN 'pay for spray' policy. Union City's Kelly Edmison says tax is cheaper than subscription,

          Chief Kelly Edmison, on the left, with Union City firefighters.

NEW INFO – Click here for update from Chief Edmison saying that South Fulton FD was NOT on the scene of Monday's fire, plus new insight into the politics of the subcription program

Coverage of most recent Obion County incident here & here

Previous coverage here, here, here, here, here and here

Chief Kelly Edmison's column from October 8, 2010

You may recall in October, 2010, when the world became familiar with Obion County, Tennessee and learned about something much of the general public was unfamiliar with, subscription fire service, one person spoke up right away on behalf of the firefighters who protect county residents. He is Union City Fire Department Chief Kelly Edmison.

Chief Edmison wrote a column for and made it clear that the firefighters aren't happy with the system either and have been trying to change it. (During last year's incident we pointed out, instead of trying unsuccesfully to chase the TV news crew from the scene, South Fulton FD should have explained this fact from the start so the public fully understood who was responsible for this system.)

Union City FD also protects part of Obion County through a subscription fee and has policies similar to South Fulton. But Chief Edmison indicated last year his department, once on the scene of a burning home, would have had a different outcome.

Even before last year's fire that the South Fulton FD watched burn, the chiefs had submitted a proposal to Obion County officials to implement a fire tax. Instead, the county went in the opposite direction and expanded the subscription service.

In addition, Wednesday night we showed you the story of Randy Evans with the Obion City Fire Department who also is trying to make it clear the firefighters want this system changed. Obion City firefighters, while not involved in the fire on Monday, have been receiving death threats because of mistaken identity, due to the name of the department (click here for that story).

As for Chief Edmison, he sent the following email Wednesday and asked me to share the latest efforts to get firefighters out of the middle and allow them to do what they are supposed to do. Here's Chief Edmison's update:

First off, the call that SFFD received initially was for an in town structure fire.  The particular street has both a “Street” and a “Lane”.  The “Lane” portion ended up being in the county. Not the city limits. 

Where the County is at this time, is that the whole county has implemented a subscription program (July 1, 2011). As you may remember, South Fulton, Kenton and Union City were the only ones with such a program.  The county is now doing the collection of the subscription fees for the departments (with the exception of South Fulton who has decided to continue to collect their own).  Countywide right now we are seeing almost 70% participation. 

The “Chiefs” hope that this figure will encourage the county at some point to pass a county fire tax and be done with this problem.  The current subscription fee is $75 per year.  If it were a tax and 100% compliant that fee/tax would probably be down around $55 or $60.  How often does a politician have the opportunity to pass a tax, when 70% of the populace are in favor of it AND save them $15 or $20 per year? 

Our Chief’s aren’t looking at the subscription program as the “Goal.”  It’s merely a step in what we hope will eventually “fix the problem.”  Meanwhile, our fellow firefighters continue to take a beating for something they truly aren’t in control of.

Kelly E Edmison, Chief
Union City Fire Department

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