Money Talks

House FireWill Rogers once said, “America has the best politicians money can buy.” It was true back then, and it’s true in today’s society that money is generally the bottom line!

Last year the previous Board of Mayor/Alderman passed a fire sprinkler ordinance requiring all new construction to have a sprinkler system. It had no effect on existing homes or businesses. While I am one who questions government intrusion, I truly felt after much studying and investigating that this was a good decision. We spent hours gathering information and talking with experts regarding this very important matter. We knew some tweaking might be needed, but the major deciding factor boiled down to safety. We were looking out for the safety of our residents AND the safety of our firefighters!

Being raised in an emergency responder environment, I have witnessed firsthand the devastation of fire. I have sat next to victims, consoling them through their tears.  On many occasions, I have witnessed my husband’s grief as he questioned what could have been done differently to save a life.  He has carried out the lifeless body of a child and then returned to the burning building to save the parent. I have been present when roofs collapsed while my father was on it and my grandfather inside! I have had family members die from injuries sustained from fire!

Interestingly when we passed the ordinance last year, one argument by the builders was that “sprinkler companies tell sad fire stories and try to tug at your heartstrings, but…” and the argument against the sprinklers always returned to the question of money.  The decision made by the previous Board, however, was not based on money. It was made because we cared about our neighbors and colleagues.

On Thursday, January 29, 2015, fire sprinkles were again brought up in City Hall.  I was there to witness the unraveling of a good ordinance and words cannot describe how appalled I was at the total disregard for human life!!

One would think that the newest board members would have been curious enough to inundate the experts (firemen) with questions!! There was not one peep!! My question for them is why wouldn’t you want all the facts before making this pivotal decision about fire sprinklers that Mr. Waldron is putting on the table? Why were the Fire Chiefs not called up and asked for input?  Why was Alderman Broeker the only one making logical statements and asking questions?

Mr. Waldron made remarks that tornados were a bigger threat and storm shelters were more important. I agree that tornados are very destructive and a major cause of death, but the major difference is that we cannot control Mother Nature, yet we have mechanisms such as sprinklers available to us that can help prevent fire death!!  That is the big difference!!  I would also remind the mayor that during my term as Mayor, the city applied for a grant from FEMA for a Safe Room that will accommodate up to 1500 people. Once the grant is awarded, there will be a safe place for our residents to shelter from a storm.  Food for thought… the grant is for over one million dollars and the city’s portion would only be roughly $100,000.  The land is already available and the shelter would serve as a dual use building to house a new Senior Citizen building.

However, back to the meeting held on Thursday.  I was appalled at the reactions of some builders in the audience as a video was shown explaining the importance of sprinklers. They laughed while the video showed two minutes into a fire without a sprinkler, the temperature at the ceiling was over 1000 degrees and on the floor over 200 degrees. If a person inside breathed in that air – after two minutes – they would sear their lungs. The builders laughed. I found little humor in that.

Another intriguing part of the meeting was the Citizens Forum where builder/developer David Waldron stated that the cost of installing a sprinkler system would outweigh the benefits of the sprinklers. The benefit? Saving lives. In my opinion, this is putting a price on life!!

Mayor Waldron commented about making La Vergne competitive with the other cities in Rutherford County, indicating we would not get the same number of new construction houses as these other cities solely due to the fire sprinkler ordinance. Yet the number of housing permits has not diminished since the sprinkler ordinance was put in place. Yes there was a run by builders to get permits before the effective date of the 2014 ordinance, but the Codes Director stated at the meeting that there are new subdivisions and houses coming, a contradiction to what Mayor Waldron said.

Not once did anyone ask about how this would affect our Fire Department. Not once did a board member ask what the difference was in the areas and response time, equipment, man power etc. If La Vergne had a comparable number of fire halls and manpower to match Murfreesboro and Smyrna, then yes… yes we could have a level playing field.  It makes me wonder, do they even care?

I would say yes, they do care.  They care about their campaign obligations!!

We sat in the audience and matched some faces staring at that board during the workshop to the Waldron Campaign Contribution List!  Here’s what we found:

  • Guest Speaker David Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500.00 in September 2014.
  • Charles Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500.00 in September 2014.
  • Greg Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500.00 in September 2014
  • Joe Morgan, CONTRACTOR, donated $750.00 in September 2014
  • Scott Butler, BUILDER, donated $150.00 in August 2014 and $200.00 in September 2014.
  • Sandra Russell, OFFICE MANAGER HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $400.00 in October 2014.
  • Randy Holmes, FOREMAN, HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $400.00 in October 2014.
  • Dale Holmes, FOREMAN, HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $400.00 in October 2014.
  • David Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500 on November 17, 2014*.
  • Greg Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500 on November 17, 2014*.
  • Charles Waldron, BUILDER, donated $500 in November 2014*.

Do we see a pattern there?

Then we examined donations to the Melisa Brown campaign, as well. It is noteworthy that Alderman Brown did not list the occupations and employers on her election financial disclosure forms, but they are the same people that donated to the mayor’s campaign:

Melisa Brown Campaign:

  • Sandra Russell, OFFICE MANAGER HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $500.00 in July 2014.
  • Dale Holmes, FOREMAN, HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $500.00 in July 2014.
  • Randy Holmes, FOREMAN, HOLMES CONSTRUCTION, donated $500.00 in July 2014.

I did request the final discloser statement for the Brown campaign from the Election Commission and was told that Ms. Brown claimed that her campaign did not have monies or expenditures over$1,000.00 so did not report.  My concern is that in her statement from October, it showed she had a balance of $1,376.74. Where did it go?  Clearly after viewing her disclosures she does not feel the need to follow rules! The election commission certainly needs to review this disclosure as the money does not add up nor are our questions answered! But that will be a story for another day.

The final twist of the current fire sprinkler proposal?  The mayor also wants to change the requirements for commercial sprinklers as well, increasing the requirement for a sprinkler from 5,000 sq. ft. to 12,000 sq. ft. so even huge buildings will no longer have to be sprinkled. How does that protect the public?

It appears that Will Rogers was right when he said “America has the best politicians money can buy.” Or in this case, La Vergne has the best politicians that money can buy. Apparently, it’s good to have friends (and relatives) in high places.  It’s a sad day when our elected officials don’t care enough to make a difference and possibly save lives.

*November 17, 2014 was AFTER the election. Why are these builders donating to his campaign AFTER the general election?

In the interest of linking to FACTS, here is a link to Melisa Brown’s campaign financial disclosures. Also, the copies of the final financial disclosures from the Dennis Waldron campaign are below.

DW Disc 1

DW Disc 2

DW Disc 5

DW Disc 3

DW Disc 4

DW Disc 6

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