June 25, 2014 — Volunteer firefighters debated their annual budget allocation with city officials at last Tuesday's Olive Hill City Council meeting.
Final approval of the city's new budget had been scheduled but members of the Olive Hill Fire Department turned out to express their frustration with continued funding cuts.
“I've been doing this for 20 years and I'm about ready to hang it up. We can't continue to operate on nothing,” said Assistant Chief Jeremy Rodgers.
According to Rodgers, the department's budget has been cut by 73 percent since 2006, the year Wes Gilliam became fire chief.
“I've about had it, myself. I'll be right out the door if things don't change,” said Lt. Chad Manning.
Mayor Kenny Fankell repeatedly insisted that his hands are tied because of the city's current financial shape.
“I've supported that fire department to the hilt, both as a council member and as mayor, but there's only so much money to go around,” said Fankell.
Some members of the community believe the department's troubles don't necessarily rest with current city officials but with former officeholders.
“We all know money is awfully tight now, but I think in the previous administration the fire department was done pretty dirty,” said Carolyn Callihan.
Council members then began brainstorming ways of providing financial relief to the fire department without straining the city's finances.
“Utilities are 18.5 percent of the fire department's budget. There has to be some way we can offer them free utilities or at the very least give it to them at cost,” said Council member Jerry Callihan.
“I seem to remember reading something in the statutes that allows a city utility to give free electric to its agencies,” said Council member Glenn Meade.
KRS 278.170 states that a public utility is able to “grant free or reduced rate service to its officers, agents, or employees” at its discretion.