Lakeland will soon have its own fire department

UPDATE: The vote passed unanimously.

LAKELAND, Tenn. -- The city of Lakeland may soon cut ties with Shelby County and form its own fire department.

Commissioners will vote on it at Thursday's meeting.

Mayor Wyatt Bunker is pushing for the change.

Currently, the county's firefighters operate out of a building off Canada Road that Lakeland owns.

Residents pay a fire fee on their MLGW bill to Shelby County to answer fire and ambulance calls in their city. The fee varies per household since it's based on square footage.

Bunker said collectively, residents pay $2.4 million in fees.

He said a city-run department would cost $800,000 less.

It's why he pushed for a new state law allowing cities to collect their own fire fee. The law passed in the last legislative session.

Bunker said the city's fire fee would be much less, and eventually he hopes to eliminate it altogether through residential and economic growth.

"We're paying $25 a month," said Betty Harrison, who's lived in Lakeland for 25 years.

She said the fee adds up. She's backing the mayor's proposal.

"I think it'd be a great idea. I think Lakeland is growing. It's becoming its own," she said.

The county's chief administrative officer, Harvey Kennedy, said Lakeland is under contract and has to give at least a year notice.

In a statement, he also said, "Although fire fees would decrease overall for the operating budget of the Shelby County Fire Department, we don't feel it would adversely affect operations."

Bunker said if his proposal passes, it will be at least 18 months before the city has its own fire department.

He also wants to look into hiring a consultant.

He said the transition would be smooth, and residents wouldn't pay both county and city fees at any time.

The commissioners will vote on this plan Thursday.