Verizon Shuts Off 150 County Emergency Phones

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Cannon County Commissioners weren't too pleased to learn Thursday that a member of the Mooretown Volunteer Fire Department had abused an agreement the County had with Verizon Wireless in exchange for 150 phones to be used for emergency and fire personnel.  

Under the agreement, Verizon provides the Cannon County Emergency Management Agency with the phones free of charge as long as calls and texts were made Verizon to Verizon only.

Anything outside of that incurs a charge. One of the members of the Mooretown Volunteer Fire Department made phone calls and texts outside the Verizon to Verizon parameter to the tune of $1,400.  When the bill wasn't paid in full, Verizon shut off all 150 phones.

Emergency Management Director Faye Morse brought the matter to the attention of the Commissioners while turning in an equipment inventory list they had requested.  

After discussing the different options, Commissioner Kevin Mooneyham told Mooretown Fire Chief Michael George that since the offender was still a member of the department, he needs to draw up a letter, get it certified that states the bill has to be paid full within 30 days, or else civil lawsuit action will be taken.

Also during Thursday's meeting:

Bennie Lawson from Lebanon approached the Commission to inform them of an elderly Cannon County lady who lives in a mobile home on Blair Branch Road. The lady was getting her water for her house from a spring which has dried up. A well would cost her $5,000 with only a 30 percent guarantee of success.

Since she had no way to get water, the Gassaway Fire Department was hauling approximately 1,000 gallons of water up to her every month for the past two years. Back in March, she was informed that the service would be discontinued without notice or explanation. It was decided then that one of two things needed to happen, either water needed to be hauled in, or a water line run to her house.

However, the city water line is a half-mile from her property and it would cost $50,000 for the city water line to run from where the line exists now to her home. She was paying $15 for the service; however she is paying $150 now for a different person to bring her the same amount of water. She is on a fixed income and can not afford the increase in price.

"We can't ruin a $65,000 truck hauling water going up that road anymore. That's why we stopped it," Commissioner Kevin George explained.

During a lengthy discussion which included looking into running a private line to her residence, it was finally decided that an old tanker from the Mooretown Fire Department that is no longer in use will be salvaged at Jerry Pelham's, then the County will look into purchasing the truck for less than $5.00 and then using it to take water to the lady.

Ricky Cope of the Cannon County Ambulance Service reported that the department received a grant that he recently applied for to purchase an ambulance. The grant is for $15,000. The grant calls for the Ambulance Service to get three bids and choose the cheapest bid for approval.  Director Cope will then advise the Commission when that step is completed, which will take approximately three to six months.

The Commission also approved the budget amendments of the County General, Solid Waste, Debt Service, the Board Of Education, the County Garage and the Sheriff's Department. It was noted in the Solid Waste Fund, that the money that needed to be switched around was taken out of the Solid Waste Fund Budget instead of the County General Fund Balance as was the case last year.

In other actions the Commission approved a continuing budget for FY2012-2013. They also approved the gas card system for the County Vehicles to get gas at the Woodbury Farmer's Coop.

Ralph Harvey of Short Mountain Market approached the commission asking that the county look into reconsidering the amount of distance between a church and a market  when it comes to the sale of beer. It was explained to him that this is an issue that would have to go before the beer board.

Commissioner Jim Bush, who also serves on the Beer Board, announced that the Beer Board would meet Saturday July 14 at 9:00 AM to look into the matter before the next regular session of the Cannon County Commission which will meet at 10 that morning.
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Members Opinions:
June 30, 2012 at 2:15pm
Stealing is a crime this person stole some thing that he was told not to do,should be arrested like any thief.
June 30, 2012 at 4:00pm
I was at the meeting and no one accused the man of stealing. Supposedly it was a misunderstanding and the man is paying on the bill a little at a time. Perhaps not fast enough, but payment has been made at different times according to Michael George at the meeting.

Darrel Young was also present and explained it was a civil matter and not a criminal one. That is why Kevin Mooneyham suggested the civil route.

Now to the real problem. The phones are off and that does no one in the county any good in the event of a disaster.

Take care of the primary problem of paying the bill and ensuring we have phones available to use in the event we need them and then take care of the secondary problem of getting the money back from the individual who misused the phone.

We have to stop cutting our nose off to spite our face!
July 01, 2012 at 6:57am
I learned Saturday that Commissioner Jim Bush is working with local churches and businesses in an attempt to find a way to run a water line to the home of the woman who is having to have water hauled to her. I think it is wonderful when local leaders and organizations make the extra effort to try to help those who are in need and have difficulty finding help.
July 01, 2012 at 12:53pm
Yes, Jim is doing a good thing trying to coordinate with the local churches. Russell Reed should get some love to because it was his idea to run the CPVC water line due to the $50,000 cost of running a normal water line was said to be.

Also to Bennie Lawson for bringing it to everyone's attention. He stated he was very nervous to speak to the entire group, but I thought he did a wonderful job explaining the plight of the woman. He was very sincere and dedicated to helping her cause.
July 02, 2012 at 2:33pm
So who was the member of Mooretown Fire Dept who has the 1400.00 phone bill??
July 03, 2012 at 9:42am
As long as it gets paid back to the county I don't see the harm in this except for the fact that Verizon cut the phones off. Which I think is a poor decision on their part.
July 03, 2012 at 11:24am
The name was not spoken in the meeting that I was aware of. It was just stated a member of the Mooretown Fire dept.

Verizon gave the phones to the county with the stipulation that it was to be used only for Verizon to Verizon calls. I understand why they cut them off after $1400 worth of charges was put on them.

What I cannot understand is why we have 150 phones in the first place because that seems extreme. Why don't we pay the bill, get the phones cut back on, assign them to the correct personnel and make them sign a document that they understand the usage and they would be responsible for any abnormal charges and then pursue the matter of getting the $1400 back.

It will do us no good to have 150 dead phones if we have an emergency because we are waiting on the un-named individual to pay back $1400 at $20 a week.

Fix the problem then make it where it will not happen again. Things like this do not have to be that hard.
July 03, 2012 at 12:56pm
I agree Corey. Maybe they should work a deal where the personnel is more accountable. Such as if Person A runs up extra charges he or she is solely responsible for it or their phone gets cut off, not the ones who were using the phones properly. Maybe in a more extreme case suspension of personnel after a period of delinquency?
July 04, 2012 at 11:57pm
Besides the one person who ran up an invoice-who had use of these phones? I know several fire/emergency responders and they all have asked-"What phones?"
Where are the phones?
July 05, 2012 at 12:39pm
Ok so why is it that no one wants to tell who ran the phone bill up. Is this not public information? And why does Verizon supply 150 phones anyway. I think there should be a limit of phones and only used by the responsible folks.
July 06, 2012 at 3:01pm
I would tell you if I knew cuntry but no one mentioned the name at the meeting, so honestly I don't know.
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