During the restraining order hearing on Friday, the defense based their argument around the motives of Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock.
Bell County Volunteer Fire Department Attorney Mark Hayden stated that Brock’s motives for attempting to keep the stations open were to drain the BCVFD’s funds in an attempt to destroy the fire department.
Another argument Hayden made was that Brock wanted to start his own fire department. Hayden said that irreparable harm will not be done if the stations closed.
During different cross-examinations, Hayden made the argument that the BCVFD are still providing fire protection to the best of their abilities as it states to do in the agreement. Hayden also argued that Brock was the individual that changed the funding once he took office.
While addressing response times, the defense argued that when the BCVFD first started there were only three stations servicing the entire county. According to BCVFD Fire Chief Rodney Wilder, the population was higher during that time.
Hayden also asked Wilder (during cross-examination) if the response times have been affected since the time the stations closed. Wilder replied no, because there is not someone at the stations 24/7.
In an effort to further prove his point about Brock wanting to start his own fire department, Hayden brought up the fact that the fiscal court passed a resolution that would allow Brock to buy fire trucks.
Hayden also pointed out that the fire suppression fund had approximately $300,000 in the fire suppression fund.
During direct, the defense called only two witnesses to the stand. The first was Roy Amburgey, a former BCVFD president.
While on the stand, Amburgey stated that one piece of equipment not reimbursed was a surveillance system. According to Amburgey, the item was not reimbursed because it was too expensive.
Two other items rejected for reimbursement included insurance that was past 90 days and some truck work that was done at World Wide.
Amburgey said he felt as though Brock was trying to control the fire department by telling them what they could buy.
During cross, attorney Erwin Roberts (Brock’s attorney) asked how much money the BCVFD had in all of their accounts at the time they were denied reimbursement. Amburgey said they had $300,000, which included their “rainy day fund.”
The second individual called to the stand was current BCVFD president Mike Cupp. According to Cupp, Brock has not provided any funding to the department since he has been president.
According to Cupp, the BCVFD tried to settle the dispute by offering a proposal. The proposal included the BCVFD receiving 32 percent of the sinking funds and the money that has accumulated in the fire suppression fund. The proposal was denied by the fiscal court.
Cupp claimed there was a meeting scheduled to discuss the situation, but the magistrates and Brock did not show.
Following the end of the defenses case, Federal Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said he would take the case under advisement. He also said he believed there are good people on both sides of the case.
Van Tatenhove said the two sides should try to sit down for a day and work the issues out to reach a common ground. He also said they could use a magistrate judge to mediate the meeting. As of Monday morning, Van Tatenhove had not reached a ruling.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.