From Commissioner Brian Jenkins
I would like to shed some light on a situation that has been severely misrepresented to the public.
This came to my attention in a commission meeting Monday night while the County Commission considered whether or not to fund a $23,000 budget amendment for the Loudon County Homeland Security Office. This amendment was sought in order to repair a 32 foot boat which was obtained from the U.S. military at no cost to the county. The value of this boat has been placed at around $150,000
This boat was to have been made available to all local emergency response organizations. It was to be used as a working platform in an attempt to better serve the citizens of Loudon County during waterborne emergency situations such as drowningís and fires aboard other vessels. It is unfortunate but these things do happen quite often on our lakes and waterways. Although there are other much smaller watercraft available in the community, we have nothing available with the capabilities of this particular vessel. I saw this boat as a very usable asset for our county at a more than reasonable price. The heads of every emergency response organization in the county signed a letter supporting this amendment. It is my belief that those are the people who know best how to care for the citizens of Loudon County during an emergency. They do it every day, they know what would be helpful.
This expenditure was put before the budget committee, which recommended itís approval to the full Commission. Apparently, between the budget committee meeting and the full Commission meeting a couple of my colleagues, who had voted for the expenditure in committee, changed their minds and voted against it during the full meeting. We are all human and do have the right to change our minds from time to time. The measure failed with a five to four vote, with one commissioner being absent.
Although I donít agree with it, I do respect this decision as being the wishes of the majority of commission. You win some, you lose some, I guess. I have been a boat owner in the past and can attest that they are very expensive to possess. $23,000 is a lot of money in any economic situation.
All of that being said this is the part I feel the need to clarify.
There are several other vehicles and pieces of equipment, which the Loudon County Homeland Security Agency has obtained from the Military through the same process. These vehicles were obtained with the only cost to the county being the fuel that was burned while going to get them. The county is not required to pay anything for them; in fact we the citizens of the United States of America and Loudon County have already paid for them through our federal taxes. All that is required of Loudon County is that we possess them for one year. If one happens to break down during that period we are not required to fix it. Should we decide to repair them (which I would not support) we do have extra vehicles to be used for parts.
Darrell Smith, the director of the Loudon County Homeland Security Agency has made arrangements with the heads of every emergency response agency in the county to make these vehicles available to them. The agency using the vehicle is responsible for replacing the fuel that they burn. There again costing the county nothing. He also has discussed placing these vehicles strategically throughout the county so that they would be more readily accessible in the event that they are needed. His plan is to act as a local point of contact for these vehicles to help with emergency responses in dire situations that do not happen often but that do happen.
My hat is off to Mr. Smith for his efforts and it is my opinion that this should be one of the functions of his office. I feel that I am qualified to make this assessment due to the fact that I have been a police officer in this area for around twenty years.
I was astonished as several county residents expressed concerns that these vehicles were going to be used to squash some sort of uprising against the Federal Government and that these vehicles were being sent by the Federal Homeland Security Agency to be stock piled in order that local Governments could use them to disarm the citizens. It truly was like watching a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.
Anyone that truly believes these things has never spent the time to have a conversation with any local Law Enforcement or Emergency Response people. The truth is that most Local and state level Law Enforcement or Fire personnel are just as frustrated with the Federal government as anyone else, if not more so. They are the people that would be standing not beside you, but likely in front of you attempting to protect you from anyone trying to do you harm and yes I mean even the Federal government. As far as disarming anyone, they would have to come take ours first and that would be no easy task.
I suspect that most of these folks have been intentionally mislead by fear mongering within a very small but very vocal localized group, In an attempt to maintain what little political relevance they have been able to gather over the last couple years.. If thatís the case I would simply say only, SHAME ON YOU.
These vehicles are purely support vehicles intended to help us get to the citizens of Loudon County when they are in need of help. The vast majority of Loudon County citizens are not fortunate enough to live in one of the posh neighborhoods surrounding one of our beautiful lakes. Many of the common folks in Loudon County live back in the rural areas. In the hills and hollows that are hard to reach on a good day. When you add a little snow or extremely heavy rains like we experienced lately one of these vehicles could help tremendously. It becomes a little more important when it is you or one of your loved ones that needs help.
In the rare circumstance that it is needed there is one Humvee that does has Armor. This one particular vehicle would likely be needed very little, but I for one would thank God it was available when the need did arise, as it has in the past, and Iím sure will again in the future. Policemen are not super human, we bleed and bruise and could die if shot just like everyone else. These people are willing to put themselves in harmís way to protect you. They are the reason you sleep snug in your beds at night. If Loudon County can offer them a piece of equipment which may help their chances of going home safely to their families I think we owe them that.
It has been said that we do not need these vehicles, that we are too small of a county, that we should depend on our big brother Knox County when the need arises and that this should all be a regional effort with the larger counties taking the lead.
I would agree whole heartedly that on most days we do not need these vehicles, but on the days that we need them, we need them badly.
In the business world you could likely depend on some type of regional co-op for equipment that you do not need on a regular basis. When you needed a particular piece you just shut down production until you can drive up to the larger plant and get the piece you need. What have you lost? Maybe a couple hours of production and a few dollars. The business world measures success or failure in dollars made or lost.
In the emergency services business we do not get to call time outs and we do not get mulligan's. In the emergency service profession we measure success by the number of lives saved or lost. When someone calls 911 they expect help to come with the tools they need to get the job done. They shouldnít have to hear Iím sorry I canít help you until I drive to Knox County to get the equipment that we need, especially when that equipment is available to this county at no cost to the tax payers.
I apologize for the lengthy rant but I really felt these things needed to be said.
Sincerely, your friend and neighbor: County Commissioner Brian Jenkins