Ohio Town Disbands Dysfunctional Fire Department

The village council determined that a disorganized department presents too great a liability to keep functional.

While the report disagrees with several points the firefighters made about Latta, it does state that he "lacks some organizational skills and habits." Yet, the report notes that Latta's "position of postal clerk leaves him little time during the business day to complete the necessary and routine duties of a fire chief." (Latta did not respond to phone messages in time for this article.)

"Doesn't seem like [Latta] was going the extra mile for the fire department. ... guys were getting frustrated," Benjamin said. He also said that the report was wrong in suggesting the firefighters' problems with Latta started when the village announced the possibility of disbanding the department.

"The breakdown in command came after the letter of no confidence in July," Benjamin said.

But Benjamin also acknowledged that the firefighters were resentful when they found out Latta could remain chief if the village decided to keep the department, while he might be promoted to fire marshal if it disbanded.

Because of those possibilities a faction of firefighters accused Latta of conspiring with the village to get the department shut down, according to the report.

Benjamin said that he and other firefighters felt that on learning about the village's possible plans, the chief should have said, "'I have never seen this before, nobody's ever talked to me about becoming a fire marshal.'"

However, the report states: "Chief Latta professes no desire to disband the fire department and was not privy to the early discussions between Glendale and the communities from which proposals for contracts were solicited."

The report recommends two options for future village fire service: a joint operating agreement with a neighboring department in which the Glendale Fire Department re-forms; or, the department will remain disbanded, and the village contracts with a neighboring department.

"The internal issues cited above would have to be addressed before Glendale would be seen as an attractive joint partner," the report states in reference to the first option.

Additionally, a majority of village residents will have to agree to a tax hike to fund a re-engineered Glendale department.

A civilian-based task force will help decide the department's future. It is due to come to the council with a first report by June 2006. Until then, a neighboring fire department will handle all emergency calls.