Oct. 20--CERRO GORDO -- Five months after a disagreement between the board of trustees of the Cerro Gordo Volunteer Fire Protection District and Fire Chief Randy West led to the mass resignations of a dozen volunteers, the fire department remains active.
Despite remaining tension on both sides of the ongoing argument, the organization is still responding to calls, albeit in a capacity that has perhaps been reduced. The organization's prospects depend largely upon who is asked.
"I think things are going pretty well," said current Fire Chief Delbert Powell, a veteran volunteer for the district who has served a total of 33 years. "I'm confident in everything that is going on, and I have faith in my guys and gals who are volunteers."
Currently, Powell said he has 19 active volunteers, which may or may not include honorary members who serve in reduced capacities. West said that number is inflated, and in any case, a reduction from the 28 active firefighters who served with him before his refusal to relieve his son, Blake West, resulted in his termination at the hands of the trustees.
"I think they have only five or six firefighters who can actively respond," said West, who has continued working at his plumbing, heating and air conditioning business since leaving the fire district in May. "They changed the age requirements to get more people on the roster. I still attend the trustee meetings and continue to offer my help, but the trustees won't accept it."
Some evidence of a reduced fire station presence can be seen. The website previously operated by the district was taken down, and the direct phone line to the firehouse has been disconnected. As chief, Powell also isn't able to physically assist on calls due to previous injury. West, however, said his dissatisfaction with the district lies entirely with the trustees.
"The way they are running the district is horrendous," he said. "It all comes down to micromanagement. Until things change there, it's not going to get any better."
Powell, on the other hand, said building the station back up is a slow process. The district held an open house last week to remind residents that they're still on call and ready to serve. The chief is confident in the organization's future.
"I feel the department is going to grow again, and it's already started growing," he said. "It's slow but steady. That's why we had the open house, to let the people know we're still here. We're not going anywhere."
Copyright 2013 - Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.