1. #1
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    Default Riverton Chief Not Re-appointed; Members Quit!

    Twelve Riverton firefighters quit
    Chief replaced by someone outside the department

    By AMANDA REAVY
    STAFF WRITER

    Published Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    RIVERTON - Nearly half of the volunteer firefighters with the Riverton Fire Protection District have resigned since the board of trustees decided Monday night to replace Fire Chief Gene Smith with someone from outside the department.

    Smith, 53, is a 27-year veteran who spent 10 years as chief. The new chief is Louie Rogers.

    Some of the 12 who left said Tuesday that the board's decision was political and not in the best interests of the department or village. They said Rogers has no relationship with the more than two dozen firefighters.

    Board member Ray Lee, the only trustee who could be reached Tuesday night, declined to discuss the matter.

    Lee said another trustee, Jim Good, would speak on behalf of the board but that he would not be available until today.

    Sangamon County Board member Dennis Wieland, who appoints the district's five trustees and was present at Monday's meeting, also referred questions to Good.

    Smith said his dismissal as chief was primarily the result of miscommunication and a different philosophy on how to handle personnel positions, primarily with board president Alex Lyons, who was appointed about seven months ago.

    "The fire district board felt it could run the department better than I could. ... They felt they needed a change for the fire department," said Smith.

    He said the position of chief is up for reappointment each January. In the past, the firefighters would take a vote on who they wanted and pass it on to the board.

    "They'd usually approve that person. When the district board was asked that last night (by fire department members) - if they have a say - the comment was, 'No, this is the way it is, and if you don't like it, too bad,'" Smith said. "That didn't sit well with too many people. The (volunteer firefighters) are the ones answering these calls, getting up at 3 a.m. They meet every week on Wednesday. The board is paid and meets once a month."

    Smith said one point of contention between him and the board members was their desire for him to fill the position of deputy chief.

    "I don't feel the need for a deputy chief, and it's not their position to tell me," he said. "It's a volunteer organization with roughly 27 members. I didn't want to end up with too many chiefs and not enough Indians."

    Firefighters who resigned said Rogers had expressed his desire to be chief to the board. They said a handful of firefighters supported the move because they wanted to be appointed deputy chief or to some other officer position.

    Rogers was out of town Tuesday night and could not be reached. State Journal-Register archives indicate he was a member of the Riverton Volunteer Fire Department at one time.

    Smith said talk of replacing him had been going on since January, and he warned the board that if firefighters were denied input, many would leave.

    He said board members felt that since Riverton gets mutual aid assistance from Dawson, a smaller department wasn't a concern.

    "I really don't know if they'll be an adverse effect on residents. ... The people who quit last night are the basic core of the department," Smith said.

    Sharyl Ellis, a nine-year firefighter, was among those who resigned after pleading with the board to compromise before appointing Rogers.

    She said the 12 members who have left represent a combined 111 years of experience.

    Relying on firefighters from another department could add 15 minutes to response time in emergencies, which could be the difference between life and death, Ellis said.

    "We always had a problem with daytime calls. Even with our full roster, we're shorthanded because people work during the days," said another firefighter, John Ippolito, who resigned after nine years with the department.

    Ellis said she doesn't feel comfortable serving under someone the firefighters haven't worked with.

    "I have children I'm responsible for. ... There's already danger to being a volunteer firefighter, and they've added to that risk 80 percent," she said. "And as a chief, if you don't know what (department members) can handle, if someone is scared of structure fires or can't climb a ladder, there's no chance your leading me into that situation."

    Ippolito said he feels the fire protection district board is out of touch with the needs of the department and lacks diversity since all of its members are appointed by Wieland.

    Cindy Bodine, a Riverton resident, said she doubts much of the community realizes they've lost half their fire department.

    "That's quite a few people, and that means we're not protected very much," she said.

    Jeannene Koslosky, whose husband, Thomas, is one of the firefighters who resigned, said she is organizing an informational protest today to alert the community to what's happening and how it could affect their safety.

    She said former firefighters, their family members and concerned citizens will meet at Ellis' home in the 500 block of East Adams Street at 6:30 p.m. and march to the firehouse.

    "I appreciate everybody's effort. I just feel like it's falling on deaf ears," Smith said.

    Ippolito added that it's difficult for many of the firefighters to give up a job they loved.

    "It kills us to leave, but to stay with someone that's shoved down our throats, we won't do that," he said.

    Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525 or amanda.reavy@sj-r.com.
    I just thought that this belonged in the Illinois Forums.
    Could make for some good discussion.
    CR
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    Here's is Part Deux:
    District defends new fire chief
    More Riverton firefighters resign, community members protest

    By AMANDA REAVY
    STAFF WRITER

    Published Thursday, April 20, 2006

    RIVERTON - Though more volunteer firefighters resigned in protest Wednesday, the Riverton Fire Protection District board is standing by its decision to appoint a new chief.

    "Louie (Rogers) comes highly recommended, highly trained, highly certified," board member Jim Good said, after the five trustees unanimously decided Monday to replace longtime chief Gene Smith with Rogers, an Emergency Medical Services system educator at St. John's Hospital.

    Twelve firefighters, including Smith, announced their resignation following the decision, claiming the board rejected their input by replacing Smith, a 27-year veteran of the department with 10 years as chief, with someone from outside the department who is unacquainted with the more than two dozen firefighters and their abilities.

    At least two more firefighters resigned Wednesday, while others remain undecided.

    Nevertheless, Good said the board is confident in Rogers' abilities to improve the department and keep residents safe, even with fewer firefighters.

    A newly appointed trustee whose first regular meeting was Monday, Good said fellow board members asked him to speak on their behalf.

    "As far as talking about Louis, he is actually an instructor in a lot of areas as far as the firefighters train in," Good said. "A lot of training that new firefighters or EMTs need, Louie can do there in Riverton versus sending firefighters to other schools."

    A news release issued by the board highlights Rogers qualifications and accomplishments, including his certification as an Emergency Medical Technician-paramedic, firefighter and rescue specialist. He is trained in fire arson investigation from the University of Illinois Fire Academy and also has training and experience with the National Incident Management System and the Fire Protection District Administration.

    Rogers, who was out of town Wednesday and couldn't be reached, was once a member of the Riverton Volunteer Fire Department in the late 1980s.

    Good declined comment on why the board rejected the firefighters' choice for chief.

    Each January, the position of chief is up for reappointment, and both Smith and Rogers submitted resumes. Rogers was selected because of his experience and his plan to enhance the department's current services, Good said."There is a plan, as far as how we want to organize the fire department. A lot depends on the personnel who stay away or come back," he said. "He had a nice plan of how to organize the department and make services more efficient and provide better training."

    Tom Babicky, a captain on the department until Rogers appointed someone else to his position Monday, said the firefighters' biggest problem is how the board handled the matter.

    "If they would've just listened to us and members vying, requesting and pleading for them to do this the right way, we would've welcomed the new guy into our department. Make him do the same thing you'd expect of us. When we come on, we're expected to come up through the ranks," he said.

    Babicky said he and other firefighters asked the board to make Rogers a Riverton volunteer firefighter first so he could introduce his plan and give it an opportunity to work with help from Smith and his command staff.

    "Wouldn't that more benefit the community? He is unknown to a majority of the (department's) membership, and that is the only problem the membership had," he said.

    Another resigned firefighter, John Ippolitio, said he plans to attend the caucus before the next Sangamon County Board meeting May 9 to voice his concerns about how board member Dennis Wieland appointed the fire protection district's trustees.

    Despite the resignations, Good said Riverton residents shouldn't fear for their safety in an emergency.

    "The number of firefighters in a volunteer fire department is always a concern. You can never have enough," he said. "... We don't want anybody to leave the fire department. The five board members interviewed the gentlemen and decided to go one direction. I hate to think volunteer firefighters would leave because of that. But our interest is in the safety of the Riverton Fire Protection District, and we think we've done that.

    "Louie has done a very good job of communicating with area fire departments, like Sherman, Rochester and Dawson, and has their full support in anything comes up in the event we need them. We do a mutual aid agreement with all of them now, and they're aware of the situation and will jump right in and help us out."

    However, former firefighters and residents who marched though town in protest Wednesday say that assurance is not enough.

    About 50 people held signs with messages such as: "Mutual Aid is not the Answer" and "Politics and Lives Don't Mix."

    One of the protesters, Jamie Petitt, turned in her firefighting equipment, ending five years with the Riverton department.

    "It was very tough. For the last five years, I've spend every Wednesday (at the firehouse)," she said.

    Babicky said he is still "in limbo" on whether or not to resign.

    "I want to find a common ground. It pretty much looks impossible right now because the decisions have been made. I'm still one of those wide-eyed optimists that believes I can change and they can see the errors of their way and reconsider and meet the compromise that so many people are asking for," he said.

    Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525 or amanda.reavy@sj-r.com.
    I am feeling that there is more to the story.
    I mean; without knowing Smith's qualifications, it sure sounds like Rogers has qualifications.
    Maybe it wasn't done like the firefighters wanted, but legally, it falls within the scope of the trustees.
    Our chief is "elected" by the membership, but is "confirmed" by the trustees.
    I use to be the confirmed and now I'm one of the confirmers!
    CR
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    Chief, thanks for the story. I read something about this yesterday but didn't read it all. I hate to see these things happen. I hope the best canidate gets to be chief there. I hate to see a lack in service in the community though. I'll be interested to know if there is more to it, and what the final outcome is. Best of luck to the Riverton Fire Department!

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    CR, I wonder how many of the district chiefs get reappointed every three years like they are supposed to be. I'd bet most are chief until they quit themselves.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
    Ashley Community Fire Protection District

    FLATLANDERS FOREVER!

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    Our whole officier corps get's voted on every year by the membership, then approved by the trustees. Seems more to this story than meets the eye, like maybe the new chief knows the system. Anyways seems it's time to elect trustees.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jboczek
    CR, I wonder how many of the district chiefs get reappointed every three years like they are supposed to be. I'd bet most are chief until they quit themselves.
    Jack:
    That is a problem inherent to the system.
    There is almost an apathy among taxpayers, including the firefighters, that allows re-appointments by the county boards to go unchallenged. Many will complain about their trustees, but won't go to the effort to fix it. Some also have the misguided notion that things might get better or my favorite, believe that they don't cause too many problems, so why change?
    Seems like it's those "few" times when a trustee wants to puff out his chest is when all hell breaks out.
    I don't know; how many times a year does a trustee attend your meetings?
    How many times a year do taxpayers attend a trustee meeting?
    Is the only time you hear from your trustees is when there is a problem?
    When was the last time they sat down with the department and looked at ways to increase revenues?
    Are everyone's expectations clearly defined and are they being met?
    Oh; I could go on and on and on and on...
    CR
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    Here's a valid question...how many of your departments are the trustees a part of the department?
    BAClair

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4caster
    Here's a valid question...how many of your departments are the trustees a part of the department?
    Is that to say that: are they firefighters AND trustees?
    One of our's is. He was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of a trustee who resigned due to health. The firefighter that was appointed had been a township trustee (roads, bridges; stuff like that), so he has experience with tax levies and such.
    He is a past president of the fire department and is very level headed. He is a good fit.
    So two of our three fire district trustees have firefighter experience. The other one farms. It's almost perfect, really.
    CR
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefReason
    Jack:
    That is a problem inherent to the system.
    There is almost an apathy among taxpayers, including the firefighters, that allows re-appointments by the county boards to go unchallenged. Many will complain about their trustees, but won't go to the effort to fix it. Some also have the misguided notion that things might get better or my favorite, believe that they don't cause too many problems, so why change?
    Seems like it's those "few" times when a trustee wants to puff out his chest is when all hell breaks out.
    I don't know; how many times a year does a trustee attend your meetings?
    How many times a year do taxpayers attend a trustee meeting?
    Is the only time you hear from your trustees is when there is a problem?
    When was the last time they sat down with the department and looked at ways to increase revenues?
    Are everyone's expectations clearly defined and are they being met?
    Oh; I could go on and on and on and on...
    CR

    CR I agree with what you are saying, I feel that the biggest reason most do not challenge the issues is fear of being blacklisted, all of us volunteers love what we do, To challenge issues usually takes a large number of the department which is hard to do and the handful who do are just labled as trouble makers. I am sad to see what is going on in riverton and no we don't know the entire story but as we all know that you are putting your life in the hands of who ever is chief of your department and there is a huge issue of trust, The trustees on the other hand are not putting thier lives on the line in the decisions they make.......

    ok I better shut up now before I get myself in too much trouble LOL....I wish the best of luck to the riverton guys and hope every thing works out for them

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefReason
    I don't know; how many times a year does a trustee attend your meetings?
    How many times a year do taxpayers attend a trustee meeting?
    Is the only time you hear from your trustees is when there is a problem?
    When was the last time they sat down with the department and looked at ways to increase revenues?
    Are everyone's expectations clearly defined and are they being met?
    Oh; I could go on and on and on and on...
    CR
    Our trustees have always been hands-off types, who don't meddle in everyday business. One is a current career firefighter locally, the other two have been members of my department. I actually like the fact that they don't try and micromanage.

    However, it would be nice I suppose if they were present a little more as far as "being" around, but again - with 60 guys voicing their opinions, sometimes you get some yahoos that say stuff the chief will have to undo...

    We really need to incorporate some type of daytime staffing, and we have a trustee retiring, so hopefully anew member will spark some life into the board to get a referendum out to pay for part-timers during the day. It isn't about us, our citizens deserve it.

  11. #11
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    Yeha I heard about this... my buddy Alan works there and I believe was given an Lt. position.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GFDSlappyRob
    Yeha I heard about this... my buddy Alan works there and I believe was given an Lt. position.
    Sorry, how can you take a 21yr old still in the process of getting his FFII Certificate and place him as a Lt. And take someone(Tom) out which has 20yrs of experience and say Alan is more qualified. I am one of those twelve who has left and I have been on that department for 9 years. I do not feel our district board has done things in the best interest of our community. The chief who was put in, was asked to leave three other fire depts. But the board does not want to hear that. So why was this new chief asked to leave these other depts? Things will all surface soon. Like how the District Board Pres. did not like the answer the chief told him when the Board Pres. told him to make someone a deputy director. Chief told him that we haven't had that position in 15yrs and that our dept does not need one. He may be able to pick his job but he can't pick the officers, that is done in the fire dept by members. So now you can see were the hostility starts. Our District Board is appointed by the County Board. Which the county board member incharge of our area is real good friends with all the guys he appointed for the District Board. So if you don't appease them and make one mad they are all in for you. But the reason why I have decided to leave is because I have given my service to the community for 9 years and loved every bit of it. But when you have a board which does this kind of thing and does not care to hear your input and wants to bring in a outsider to be incharge over your life. And this new person has been asked or mutually agreed to leave several other departments. And the board does not care to hear your input. Makes you think about who is going to be made the example. I know forsure its not me. I have children and I'm going to be there for them. My safety comes first. We were taught that the first thing when you enter the department. The District Board does not care to hear your input, that kind of tells me they do not care for my life either. They also wanted to bring a gentleman in whom has a history of being asked to leave depts makes me wonder why?? When the new chief came in, he had his list of new officers and just 2 min before was appointed. How did he decide who was qualified and who was not qualified? He was not on the dept. The people who he placed in as officers were the people who did not always get what they wanted at the fire dept. Not to mention the training meetings, two of the new officers had very low attendance last year. And the new chief stated that all officers must be CFFII and Licensed EMT's. Well, new chief already lied to us. Two of his officers are not CFFII when placed in there positions. And one of the Deputies will not go into a fire. How can this person give orders if they will not go into a fire themself. So with the board not caring and the new chief who has put in inexperience officers, how could it be safe. That makes my point the Board knew well in advance like three months that if they would not talk to us, we would leave. But their answer to us was, "oh well that is what mutual aid is for". So you see the board does not respect what we do. One of the board members compared his little league baseball volunteering to our firefighter volunteering. Excuse me there is a difference.

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    Like I said before it's time to make the trustees elected rather than appointed. It's your deptartment, take the bull by the horns and git-er-done.

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    Default 21 yr. old LT.

    I am the 21 yr. old that was put into a Lieutenant position. That would be the lowest level officer position incharge of fire operations with in the structure. I have completed my FFII certification and paperwork is holding my cert. back (name because a signature (not my own) was not on one of the papers). I am in my 2nd mod. of 3 in FFIII class and also enrolled in Fire investigator I. My previous classes are Fire Apparatus Engineering, Hazmat for the first responder (which entails Awarness and Operations), Intro to criminal justice and a prior year at Illinois State University where I took my EMT-B certification and passed the national registry. I have been a member for 3 years as well as a jr. firefighter for 2 years before that. My father (which is Mr. Franklin) was the president of the board for many years as I was a kid and I grew up with many of the members up there that I now serve with. I figured I would allow a little background to who I am considering I have been brought up in this.

    I reposted this from the other forum.

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    Hey; anyone from Riverton out there?
    November is coming up.
    Will your question on elected trustees be on the ballot?
    CR
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    Hey Riv3404, You don't impress me. Relaxe get some time on the job. Learn the job before leading brothers into the fight.

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    Our trustees come from individuals on the fire dept. Voted in by the fire dept. members. I don't know the circumstances behind this fire dept. and the reasoning in removing this cheif and replaceing him with somebody outside of the dept., sometimes if you've had and ongoing problem for a while sometimes it maybe better to bring somebody from the outside to turn things around, it may not be a popular idea among fire dept. members, but sometimes it's best. I'm not saming this was the case, because there is always 2 sides to a story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sprky131
    Hey Riv3404, You don't impress me. Relaxe get some time on the job. Learn the job before leading brothers into the fight.
    I didn't post it to impress you nor anyone, but I question why have doubt in my abilities and is it all based on experience? Also ChiefReason yes it will be on the ballot.
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    Also ChiefReason yes it will be on the ballot.
    Fantastic.
    Are there any early predictions of how the vote will go?
    CR
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    Sounds like a big mess to me. I guess I never realized how corrupt a small town/township fire dept. could be. Knowing how ours is run (How ChiefReason runs it ) I don't believe we would ever have a mass exodus of FireFighters over the possibility of a new Chief.

    Ray

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefReason
    Fantastic.
    Are there any early predictions of how the vote will go?
    CR
    No clue, but i would imagine it would pass and that is really ok with me. If anyone would like to see our progress and what we have done in the past months visit our web site: www.rafpd.org
    Last edited by Riv3404; 10-26-2006 at 02:11 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4caster
    Here's a valid question...how many of your departments are the trustees a part of the department?
    I am, I'm the Asst. Chief of our Dept. and I'm on the Board of Directors. Voters living in our District elect the Board. Rarely does the public come to a Board meeting, until something "bad" happens.

    Last April we had a fire at the local school, being in a rural area with limited manpower and equipment all neighboring Dept.'s have standing orders with the County dispatch to automatically page out mutual aid, we had 7 different Dept.'s involved when it was all said and done.

    The next meeting was packed! In the end it was all good, we raised awareness enough to garner donations to help fund a "new" used pumper (1985 Peterbilt with a General body, 1500 gpm) to replace our 1960 International that only about 3 people could operate.

    I've only been on the Board a little over a year and frankly I hope we always have at least one firefighter on the Board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sprky131
    Hey Riv3404, You don't impress me. Relaxe get some time on the job. Learn the job before leading brothers into the fight.
    Why the animosity?? We are all firefighters...no need to get panties all in a bunch become someone hasn't been on for 20 years.

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    Today's the day.
    Someone from there, please let me know the outcome of the referendum.
    CR
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    The referendum passed. If you would like to see the numerous comments left after the article they ran on the 6th the link is below. I am Alan Franklin and I have a couple comments listed as well.

    http://www.sj-r.com/sections/news/stories/100001.asp

    Just updated on sj-r.com's website:

    That's the spread with 100 percent reporting.

    Yes 2,026

    No 504

    I also wanted to say that we just upgraded to ALS level the first of November and we have had 2 ALS calls (many more than that, but were at the BLS level of care). Like I always do take a look at our website www.rafpd.org because I will be updating and putting an ALS vs BLS page on there tonight or tomorrow.
    Last edited by Riv3404; 11-08-2006 at 07:21 AM.
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