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    Default Volunteers Walkout - Franklinville, NC

    Firemen toss gear, resign in dispute
    By Kerry Kesler
    Staff Writer, The Courier-Tribune


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    FRANKLINVILLE - "Cool heads will prevail, not hot heads," Franklinville Town Commissioner Jerry Grazier said Tuesday evening of an ongoing dispute involving volunteer firefighters and newly-elected fire board members.

    Cool heads did not prevail at Tuesday night's first meeting of the new Franklinville Fire Protection Association board, however, as 32 of the town's 38 volunteer firefighters stormed through the standing-room-only crowd.

    The firemen threw their turnout gear and pagers in front of the nine board members.

    Fire board chairman Milton Groce then called for an order to adjourn the meeting after the board voted to spend $3,500 for an audit of the fire department books.

    "We don't want anyone to resign," Groce said, as the pile of turnout gear reached the height of the table he sat behind.

    "I remember how people worked to get a fire department here. I'm here to help. My sole ambition is to get everybody together."

    "Why did you want to get rid of (fire chief) James (Parrish)?" a woman in the audience asked the new board members. Parrish resigned Monday, citing lack of support from the board.

    "Why get rid of the firemen on the board? This new board won't do anything to help us."

    "Taxpayers have a right to be heard," a man said as Groce banged his gavel and adjourned the meeting. The board members filed out as people jeered and called them "cowards" for leaving.

    "I knew this was going to happen," Ed Wallace said after the board walked out. On Monday evening, firefighters threw a surprise party for Wallace, who was voted off the board in September after serving 38 years as treasurer of the Franklinville Fire Protection Association.

    "They locked me out of my office and won't let me in. Now, they're going to throw away $3,500 of taxpayers' money on an audit. They came in saying they wanted to save taxpayer money."

    As people filed out of the fire station and onto Main Street, Wallace said the issue began on Sept. 11, 2001, when a group of citizens, concerned about higher taxes, decided to convince people in the Franklinville Fire District that fire tax money could be better spent. In the elections of 2001, two members of the concerned citizens group were voted onto the fire department board, he said.

    Last Sept. 10, Wallace said, cards were passed out to the 6,000 people who live in the fire district recommending the current members to the board. With a vote on Sept. 10, no firefighters were left on the board, and a backlash began because other area residents became concerned that their volunteer firefighters would no longer receive the needed support from the new board, Wallace said.

    After Tuesday's meeting, fire board chairman Groce walked across Main Street to talk to Mayor Mac Whatley at town hall. Whatley, who also spoke out for calm during the brief fire board meeting, talked with Groce in private. Groce then came to the town hall door where he was met by about two-dozen angry people in front of lights from a television video camera.

    "We're going to do everything we can to get our fire department back," Groce said.

    Groce said other nearby stations would cover the district in the event of a call.

    Danny Shaw, a Ramseur town commissioner, approached Groce and requested mutual aid (fire response help) from Franklinville, stating that his fire department had two trucks out of service for repairs.

    "Eastside (volunteer fire department) told me today they would come to our aid," Groce said as people asked where help in an emergency would come from.

    Groce walked back across the street to his truck where a uniformed deputy from the Randolph County Sheriff's Office moved the crowd away from the vehicle to allow Groce to leave.

    According to former fire board member Mark Groce, a 20-year veteran of the volunteer fire department and cousin to Milton Groce, the loss of manpower leaves the Franklinville Fire Department with seven men. Those men were called cowards by people in the crowd for not resigning. Only one of the men knows how to drive a fire truck, Mark Groce said.

    "Maybe the firemen could work their problems out if this board was not involved," Groce said as cat-calls and jeering continued.

    "We had an accountant check our (the fire board's) records every year," said Sharon Groce, Mark's wife. "This group came in saying there was money missing from the books. There is no missing money. This board had members who accused Ed Wallace of misplacing money. An audit will not find any missing money."

    Mayor Whatley spoke later by phone concerning the question of fire protection for the community. "I spoke to Frank Willis (Randolph County manager) and Neil Allen (Emergency Services director) and (Sheriff) Litchard Hurley tonight. If Franklinville (fire) pagers go off tonight, whoever responds from here will be assisted by whoever else can come out (from other fire districts).

    "I don't know right now what it will take to satisfy the volunteers who resigned tonight. They lost an election and they're irritated, but there was nothing unnatural or unfair about the (last) election. I approve an audit by the new board. Anytime a new group takes over it would be prudent to have one. I don't expect any surprises. But, people don't realize how valuable a tool an audit can be."

    Asked about services, Whatley said, "Fire calls and emergency calls will be answered. Fire and emergency services will continue in the Franklinville Fire District. The goal of a fire department is to protect the citizens. Sooner or later, we'll have that happening."

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    With a vote on Sept. 10, no firefighters were left on the board, and a backlash began because other area residents became concerned that their volunteer firefighters would no longer receive the needed support from the new board, Wallace said.
    Maybe the 'other area residents' should have taken the election as seriously as the other people that voted.

    Boy, they really showed 'em, didn't they?

    Let's see...the first meeting of the new fire board, and they didn't even get to have a meeting...what's this prove? Is the board anti-firefighter? Well, we sure don't know, do we? Seems the meeting was interupted by a bunch of firemen gettin' a little riled up.

    We had a similair situation occur at our FD a few years back. A group of citizens managed to gain a majority on the board during elections. They lasted less than half a year and resigned when they found out that a rural, volunteer FD isn't a fun kingdom to be dictator of.

    Both sides on this deal in North Carolina best come together and work out some issues before somebody dies or loses their home.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    Addendum to post by Silver City 4...

    Our board was five people serving two year terms, two to be elected one year, three the next. This took place at an election where three board members (a quorum) were elected.

    Immediately after that very uncomfortable election meeting, our Chief (at that point, assuming that he was soon to be the ex-Chief) met with the firefighters and told them that the situation would have no effect at the operational level.

    Our firefighters sucked it up and got on with the job. We serve the community (the WHOLE community, even those we don't agree with), not the board.

    If you page us, we will come.

    At our next annual meeting, the by-laws were changed, modifying the board terms so that a quorum could not be elected at any given election.
    Asst. Chief Bill

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    Post Time for a change...

    So, This is not a problem here in our neck of the woods, our 9 commissioners (I am one) are elected BY AND FROM THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE COUNTY'S VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANIES.(this arrangement is mandated by the county charter, our county's "constitution" if you will) But then, it must be the money, we only have a little over 9 million a year to spend. Time for you folks who have problems in this type of system to change it. Many times, a citizens referendum on the ballot at election time is the way to eliminate unwanted interference. Worked for us. Stay Safe....
    Last edited by hwoods; 10-07-2002 at 04:58 PM.
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    Default Re: Time for a change...

    Originally posted by h woods
    we only have a little over 9 million a year to spend.
    shoot... We can't even get 70K to keep 2 engines, 3 tankers, a brush truck and an EMS first responder car in service. Plus all the other bills that come in.

    The clueless trying to lead those that learned it in the school of hard knocks. That's what it looks like to me.
    Another lifetime volunteer proud to serve my community.

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    Default Re: Volunteers Walkout - Franklinville, NC

    Originally posted by fire-inst
    According to former fire board member Mark Groce, a 20-year veteran of the volunteer fire department and cousin to Milton Groce, the loss of manpower leaves the Franklinville Fire Department with seven men. Those men were called cowards by people in the crowd for not resigning. Only one of the men knows how to drive a fire truck, Mark Groce said.
    I can't believe that the seven members that did stay were called cowards! They are the ones showing a sense of duty! If the members of that department took an oath or not, they promised to protect their community by joining the department! They have no right to endanger the lives of those citizens for any reason! They can't justify it by saying the mutual aid dept. can handle it, if they could the Franklinville dept. wouldn't need to exist in the first place! The members who walked out just plain suck!

    This seams to me like a case of too much politics. My village doesn't need fire commissioners. The members answer to the chief, the chief to the mayor and village manager. End of story. It sounds to me like there are way too many elected positions in this town. Things run much smoother the fewer supposed leaders you have.
    "What makes a person run into a building others are running out of?...Character."- Dennis Smith

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    Here's an update on the situation (from FH.com main page)

    updated article

    If you don't read anything else, read this quote from the article:

    For the past two years, a group called The Committee of Concerned Citizens had been asking for a change of leadership in the fire association. On Sept. 10, long-time board members were removed during an election as the community voted to replace the board with people with no ties to the fire department itself.
    Now, an organized group has been lobbying for two years to have changes made on the fire department board, and these guys were shocked when it actually happened?

    I don't know the political situation in this community, but two years is plenty of time for the fire chief and firefighters (as well as the old board) to make a case to the citizens if everything is as it should be. Sounds to me like the old board dropped the ball. I hope all the guys that quit are feeling really guilty. In particular, the chief. A leader would wade through the problems and try to work within the system to improve it, not just quit at the first sign of adversity. Heck, they don't even know if the new board is going to shake things up! All they've done is request an audit, and if everything is fine, who cares?

    Sorry, this has really hit a nerve with me.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    Of course we don't know all of the politics involved or how long the problem has existed. I think every town has it's citizen groups who don't want to pay more taxes. I'm just curious how you can run a department with increeasing training cost, increasing equipment cost, and increasing vehicle cost. It is really a shame when stupid people get inot a position of power.

    Did these commissioners even take the time to learn what the needs of the community and the needs of the department are? My guess is the department can't get a couple of hundred dollars for a new pager but the board can spend $3,500 for an audit. It sounds like the commisioners and the "concerned citizens" don't have a clue.

    I guess it is a way of bringing attention to the matter. Sort of like the dock workers strike going on right now. If you don't think that is having a real effect on peoples lives you must be living in a cave.

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    Question Time - Ah yes, you in the back, the new guy, you have a question?
    Yes, why are FF so upset when nonFF get on the board? Yes, we may have to explain why we need something, but if we can't make the case to the board, how can we make the case to the public on how we spend their money?
    As a follow up, our department is there to help THE PEOPLE and put out fires. My loyalty is to the community, not the Chief, or the Fire board. They may or may not be my friends, but isn't there a larger goal here? Or is this a taxpayer funded social club?

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    Originally posted by Sleuth
    Question Time - Ah yes, you in the back, the new guy, you have a question?
    Yes, why are FF so upset when nonFF get on the board? Yes, we may have to explain why we need something, but if we can't make the case to the board, how can we make the case to the public on how we spend their money?
    As a follow up, our department is there to help THE PEOPLE and put out fires. My loyalty is to the community, not the Chief, or the Fire board. They may or may not be my friends, but isn't there a larger goal here? Or is this a taxpayer funded social club?
    Sleuth's last sentence says it all. Maybe the people were not happy with what they saw on their fire department. I know the answer will be "if they want to make changes, maybe they shoulda/woulda/coulda volunteered". Not everyone can be a volunteer firefighter.

    There are VFD's run like "social clubs". Perhaps this was one of them. As far as the audit, if the Franklinville VFD has nothing to hide, they should welcome it...who knows, they might even get increased funding out of it!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    My guess is the department can't get a couple of hundred dollars for a new pager but the board can spend $3,500 for an audit. It sounds like the commisioners and the "concerned citizens" don't have a clue.

    Nope, we're not talking about a particulary small little underfunded department here.

    Thanks again to www.guidestar.org, Franklinville receives about $250,000 annually in tax-money, about $45,000 goes out in salaries & wages. See http://tinyurl.com/1u6d for a quick link.

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    Angry

    Wow this sounds all too familiar. In my Vol. fire company we have discussed a walk out. We have had ongoing problems with our fire board of comissioners over the past 10 years. We faught to replace our rescue. At the time we were running our mini pumper to all ems calls. After about five years we got that truck replace with a new rescue. We now for the past three years have had a salvage truck sitting in our station out of service. This truck has been pretty much considerd to be unrepairable. Recently they have refused to pay for training unless you passs the class. This has caused many firefighters to go without adequit training.This year they cut our equipment budget down to 7,000 dollars. This is unacceptable seeing that we are currently very poorly equiped as it is. Maybe if we turned in all of our gear they would think twice about what they are doing. Any suggestions.
    Everything that I post is my opinion only, none of this should be taken as fact.

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    Originally posted by cdevoe
    My guess is the department can't get a couple of hundred dollars for a new pager but the board can spend $3,500 for an audit. It sounds like the commisioners and the "concerned citizens" don't have a clue.
    Are you implying that the citizens dont have the right to an audit to see how their funds are spent? My union in which I am an executive member has audits every 6 months, as a matter of policy. The result is I never have to worry about my union brothers complaining no one knows where the money is going. Open books is always the best policy, unless of course you are up to some skullduggery

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    Originally posted by sfdlt5
    Wow this sounds all too familiar. In my Vol. fire company we have discussed a walk out. We have had ongoing problems with our fire board of comissioners over the past 10 years. We faught to replace our rescue. At the time we were running our mini pumper to all ems calls. After about five years we got that truck replace with a new rescue. We now for the past three years have had a salvage truck sitting in our station out of service. This truck has been pretty much considerd to be unrepairable. Recently they have refused to pay for training unless you passs the class. This has caused many firefighters to go without adequit training.This year they cut our equipment budget down to 7,000 dollars. This is unacceptable seeing that we are currently very poorly equiped as it is. Maybe if we turned in all of our gear they would think twice about what they are doing. Any suggestions.

    SFDLT..your quote by the numbers:
    now for the past three years have had a salvage truck sitting in our station out of service. This truck has been pretty much considered to be unrepairable.

    Why is it unrepairable? Age, lack of parts? If the "salvage truck" is unrepairable, what is it doing in the firehouse? Get rid of it!

    Recently they have refused to pay for training unless you passs the class. This has caused many firefighters to go without adequit training.

    You didn't specify what type of training this is. If I am paying to send personnel to take a course, they should be able to pass it. It's the taxpayers money the commission is spending. Why waste it if someone doesn't want to or care to pass? It's a fair deal...you pass, you get paid..talk about incentive!

    Maybe if we turned in all of our gear they would think twice about what they are doing.

    If you turn in your gear, you are abandoning the people you swore to serve and protect. It's like a thousand other stories we have seen out here..."they" want me to play by rules, I don't wanna play by "their" rules (even thought "they" are providing the bat, ball, bases and field!), so I quit....sounds like a spoiled sports superstar or a small child (come to think of it, they are similar!)

    You want funding and cooperation from the commission? Do your homework! Bean counters like to count beans, so show them where the beans have been going, how much they will save on repairs by spending beans for new equipment, then break down the cost of the new stuff by showing how many beans per tax bill and per capita the stuff will cost.

    If everything is on the up and up, and your FD has nothing to hide, then where's the problem with cooperation?
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 10-07-2002 at 06:12 PM.
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    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    1st, do your homework. Get estimates, costs, try to quantify a cost vs. asset setup. On training, use quotes from Firehouse Magazine, as well as NFPA and perhaps something from your insurer. How about statments from local chiefs of other departments about the hazards of untrained personel. Personalize the issue, perhaps with photos of burned FF and news articles about those who died from a lack of training. Make them feel for you as individuals, trying to save their lives and homes.
    2. Is anyone on the department a salesman? You have to sell the board on your needs. Don't think that anything is obvious to the board. Invite them down to the station to look at the equipment you want to replace. Be prepared to explain why a worn out set of turnouts cannot be repaired, and how much replacements costs. On your vehcile, get estimates from more than one local shop on the costs of repair, and have options for replacement (converting a commercial truck, buying used, state or Federal surplus, etc.).
    3. Designate one or two people to speak to the board in each area. Perhaps the Chief is not well spoken, so he can deligate to others to speak about vehicles and training. Don't let a mob of FF try to all talk at once. This is a sales presentation, so it needs to be rehearsed and ready.
    4. After your presentation, if you are refused, ask for details of their objections.
    5. Last recourse: Get it into the press that you have inadiquate equipment to protect lives and property in your district. Invite the press to attend your presentation to the board, and ask for recorded votes. Put the members on the spot as to why you cannot have the equipment and training you need to save them.
    Good Luck

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    Last recourse: Get it into the press that you have inadaquate equipment to protect lives and property in your district. Invite the press to attend your presentation to the board, and ask for recorded votes. Put the members on the spot as to why you cannot have the equipment and training you need to save them.
    The important thing with this point is that it is the last resort. Many people want to start with this type of approach.

    When your talking about spending taxpayer's money, you have to have a real good explaination of where all the money is going. Just the suspicion that something is out of whack can have devestating consequences. That's why I'm very disappointed that the chief and firefighter's walked out over an audit. Now it looks like they have something to hide or are a bunch of spoiled children. Unfortunately, that perception will be layed upon the guys that had the courage to stay when the majority said,"I don't like it, let's quit."

    My FD isn't tax-supported (directly). We sell subscriptions. As such, we limit the people who can run for Board of Directors to paying members of the district. They don't have to be firefighters, but Board Members are strongly encourags to be involved in the department so they understand the needs that arise. Even though we don't receive tax money, our books are open to the public anytime...just so people don't think we're asking them for money when we've got a bunch socked away.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    This is getting close to home. When I joined my dept, I was disapointed to see they spent $6,000 on a universal gym that is little used, and over $5,000 on a TV, VCR, Stero, Satellite system that we rarely use for training. Now we need to get new SCBA, and we don't have the $$.
    (Those who spent this money this way have all quit the department. They were real disapointed when we would not give them the new combination to the locks!)

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    First things first. The salvage truck I was talking about is so old that parts are few and far between. This truck is still in the firehouse because the fire district rents the apparatus room from the fire company. There for they can keep it there until they get rid of it. The whole thing about them refusing to pay for schooling is that they even try to get out of paying for osha classes. They do not have the legal right to refuse to pay for schooling or books for anyone. This is a real problem here because some of our firefighters can not afford to pay for the classes. We all have families to support. Being a Vol. costs us money all the time so why should we have to front the money for schooling.

    Our fire commissioners are all very old men who do not understand the need for the new equipment. Sh*t they still think alls that you need for an EMS call is a box of bandaids and the number for the coroner. So if you think we do not have a valid complaint against them(gonzo) , then you should come up here to N.Y. and you try to talk some sense into them. I have tried but I think thier hearing aids were all turned down too far..........
    Everything that I post is my opinion only, none of this should be taken as fact.

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    sfdlt5 - with as close to Lairdsville as you are, you have lots of information available to present to your Board. Show them in black and white what can happen when not properly trained and equipped. It's not you against them, you are all looking for the same thing, so find a way to work together.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Good point, it is up to the fire fighters and thier chiefs to sell the budget. Unfortuantely, like any sale, some are harder than others. And some are just impossible.

    I wonder how I would react if I knew that the community and the board were not behind me. I just might be tempted to show them the cost associated with a paid department. Then there is the cost of no department at all.

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    cdevoe, remember we need to personalize the problems. If a commisioner lives in a 2 story home, talk about how you cannot safely raise a ladder to evacuate his wife, or how your pumper cannot push enough water to fight his roof fire. You must, in a sense, make them feel the heat!

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    Default walkouts

    I'm a little late on this one but let me throw in my 2 cents...

    I don't know the specifics and insider details in this situation (I don't believe in giving the media 100% credence), but I have my own share of politics to deal with. Politics suck - this is a fact. You have to deal with it if you are going to be in the volunteer service in this country.

    The key is in how you deal with it.

    Why are you a FF? If it's to serve the community you don't stage a walkout.

    It doesn't mean an individual can't make a decision that the department is no longer the right place for them to be - but a mass walkout hurts no one but the people who will be without your services. I have a very difficult time reconciling the mentality behind condoning this.

    Calling people cowards for staying behind? I think the cowards are the ones who chose to stomp off mad rather than stay and face the issues. It's harder to stay and fight for what you feel is right than to leave in a cloud of dust.

    I hope they fix this situation for the sake of the citizens of that district - and the citizens of the neighboring districts that will be stretched thin in assisting them with coverage.

    Think people - consider the implications of your actions - it MAY hurt these board members come the next election - but tell that to the people who die or lose their homes..I doubt they'll care much.
    Susan Lounsbury
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    Griffith Volunteer FD

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    Default That's democracy!

    A fair election was held. The other side lost. It sounds like "the good ole boys" got beat and they are unhappy, so they are resigning. They had two years to get their sh*t in order, but instead, chose to believe that they could not be beaten. They continued with "business as usual". In the meantime, the concerned citizens were getting their message out and were successful.
    Our current board of three have no firefighting in their backgrounds. Sometimes that's good and a few times, that is bad. I believe that you should have a familiarity with the subject matter, but I don't believe that being a firefighter should be a pre-requisite for the job of fire commissioner. I happen to have the experience, so I am running for a trustee's post, but even if I didn't have 22 years of firefighting experience, if I was interested in the post and was familiar with government, funding and firefighter issues, I would run.
    I believe that there is alot more to this story than is being told and reported. A general public will not turn its back on its fire department in most cases.
    How could you expect the first meeting of the new commissioners to take place when the room was filled with every cousin, brother, dad and mom of the firefighters screaming that (three names here) was screwed? And the audit? Good idea. It sounds like the books had never been audited. That spells trouble in my book. It should be interesting to see what comes out of that.
    It's a real mess that didn't have to happen. The ex-chief could have done much better at keeping the line of communication open between the board and the fire department, but instead, he took the coward's way out. Pure and simple, he didn't want to explain anything. He had been so use to cashing the blank checks that he didn't feel that he owed anyone an explanation; least of all, the taxpayers.
    What you had here was a "nest". Maybe, it's not all bad that many in the nest resigned. The ones who did not are not cowards, as they were called by the crowd; they are men of honor who understand their call to duty.
    This department should take this opportunity to become a better department. They are suppose to serve the public; not subvert it!
    Just my opinion. After all, I am of the crusty persuasion.

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    Aug 2002
    Location
    Mayfield NY
    Posts
    378

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    I've thought about this a little. And this is what I come up with.

    Either the public is right and they are spending too much or the Fire Department is right and they aren't spending enough.

    One has to consider what the public considers an acceptable level of protection. If you live in a small town of 3000 people do you really need a 100 foot platform ladder truck?

    Now there are certain basic requirements that must be met. It is up to the FD to pull the regs and show the requirements. For instance Turn out Gear must meet a spec. All firefighters need to be trained, we need annual physicals, etc.

    So justifying the basics is easy.

    What is hard is justifying things like a new truck. We want to replace our 1961 tanker. You need to present an economic analysis that justifies the purchase. This takes some work. You want a thermal imager. Justify it. You need to replace turn out gear. Show why. If you can come up with good justifyable reasons for expenditures and the public turns you down then you ask the questions. Perhaps the public is satisfied with sub standard support. At which point I would say one is justified in turning in their gear. If you, Mr. public, want sub-standard support, then you can have it, but don't ask me to participate in such a program.

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