Letter to the Editor from Box 100

Thank you for allowing me to share information about Box 100, a rehab group that exists to support emergency services personnel and other city workers who report to long calls in the field.  We provide volunteer hours solely to our city, and we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In fact, we have even worked emergencies on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve when other people were nestled snug in their beds or spending time with family and friends.

After Hurricane Katrina and the severe lack of rehab for emergency workers, people were disappointed in the slow response of the Red Cross so Box 100 also looks after victims of fires, floods, and other disasters until the Red Cross can arrive.

Box 100 started in 2006 after Senna Mosley suggested a group be formed, modeled after Box 55 in Nashville.  Rick O’Neal was the first Chief of the organization and built a strong, viable group of volunteers.  Why the need for rehab?  The National Fire Protection Association, Document 1584, establishes the criteria for developing and implementing a rehabilitation process for fire department members at incident scene operations and training exercises. Several states already mandate that rehab units exist, and the cost of properly operating them if done through a municipality could be upwards of $150,000.  This amount would pay for salaries and benefits of at least two employees, overtime, supplies, vehicles, insurance, fuel, and more.  As it is, the city granted Box 100 $15,000 for the last three years and increased the amount to $25,000 this fiscal year due to the volume of calls.

Of the $25,000 we received this year, a large portion goes for upkeep of the aging vehicles (tires, oil, engine repairs).  There are three vehicles, each having 150,000 to 225,000 miles on them, and each vehicle must be insured up to a million dollars. We do not allow drivers under the age of 25.  Vehicles are centrally parked at City Hall in order to respond quickly to any part of town in an emergency event.  We do plug in one camper-sized refrigerator freezer and two small refrigerators.  According to city officials, the electricity for these runs about $3 per month.  Members also use their own vehicles and their own gas with no reimbursement at city functions and events, including traffic control for parades and all park activities. We are at every single event the city hosts providing volunteer staff support, thereby allowing city workers to concentrate on uninterrupted service to the community. Funding is also used for rehabilitation supplies such as water, coffee, Gatorade, food, first aid, towels to cool off fire fighters at the scene, heaters to warm up police and fire personnel during cold months, diesel for heaters, gasoline for the generator, and more.

We also provide weather support services.  Our weather support consists of a highly trained four-person team, with two having completed advanced storm-spotter training by the National Weather Service, as well as additional certifications. As severe weather approaches, this team keeps police, fire and city personnel informed about approaching storm cells so they know when to seek shelter. This information is also shared with the general public on multiple social media platforms.

Our members also undergo extensive training at no cost to the city.  This training includes all incident command classes, CPR, first aid, community emergency response training, fire extinguisher training, identifying chemicals, house to house search and recovery, and more.

So what does all of this really cost you?  Box 100 receives about .03 cents a month per household from the average value of an appraised home in La Vergne. The most expensive homeowners pay Box 100 through their property taxes about 8¢ cents per month to provide police and fire with rehab support. While there are social media sites that have focused a lot of energy on disparaging this volunteer organization, we strongly feel that if you are a rich homeowner in La Vergne with a family of four, 2¢ per month per person is not too much to spare to help our police and fire personnel, victims of emergencies, and volunteer support at all city events. Our volunteers do not receive one penny of compensation for their thousands of volunteer hours every year.

Box 100 also does the maximum amount of fundraising allowed by state law.  We hold two fundraisers each year.  That money is earmarked for the Christmas for the Children program, which also provides food and toiletries for senior citizens.

I also want to take the opportunity to address our actual volunteers.  The Mayor and her husband are members of Box 100, but neither will vote on any financial decisions.  In fact, they will leave the meeting when discussion occurs about the grant request made to the city. The mayor’s husband is not – as has been rumored – the treasurer of the organization.

Another item that has been questioned regarding Box 100 was why we paid a penalty to the IRS.  In 2012, the former chief did not win her bid for reelection as chief of the organization. The new chief took all financial paperwork to an accountant and it was discovered that tax returns had not be filed for nearly three years. At three years of non-filing, the IRS will revoke a 501(c)3 tax exempt status for an organization. We quickly filed for an extension, and then within a month turned in three years of records.  The IRS charged a penalty of $2,707.40, but we appealed the penalty by explaining the change in leadership and the unwillingness of the previous chief to file the paperwork.  The IRS refunded the penalty in full, down to the last dime. We are now current with the IRS. We are current with our state business registration. And we are current on all of our bills.

I invite you the public to attend any of our meetings. We are a very transparent organization and would be happy to share our minutes, our financial statements, our records of calls, our budget requests, our annual report, and any other information you would like to see.  We usually meet the first Monday of every month, but in November and December it will be the first Wednesday. Meetings are held at Fire Station 3 at 6:30 p.m.

I also encourage you to consider joining this organization. We are a family friendly group that welcomes all members.

Sincerely,

Laura Davidson, Chief
Box 100 La Vergne

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