Budget Fight Forces Ky. Chief to Step Aside

July 23--Olive Hill Fire Chief Wes Gilliam has informed the Journal-Times that he will resign from his position effective July 31.

"It was an extremely difficult decision. We have accomplished so much since I have been here but, given recent events, I think it's time for me to move on," said Gilliam.

During his seven-year tenure as chief, the department has become one of the best trained and respected volunteer operations in the state.

Continued friction with city officials regarding the department's budget, however, has taken a toll, he says.

"Every year it seems that it becomes more and more of a struggle to try to get the things we need to operate at the high level we've come to expect here," said Gilliam. "At some point you just get tired of having to fight for every little penny."

Gilliam had originally decided to remain with the department for at least another year, hoping some revenue from the city's occupational tax and alcohol sales might bolster the department's budget.

Recent interactions with city officials, however, caused him to reconsider that decision.

"I've spent thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to buy things for the department when we didn't have the money," said Gilliam. "When people who have never set foot in this firehouse question my integrity, and when others who have known me for years sit by and say nothing, it's personally hurtful, considering all that I've sacrificed for this fire department."

The incident in question revolves around Gilliam being questioned at a recent City Council meeting regarding a separate donation account that the department keeps for fundraising activities.

Gilliam says he was wrongly accused of keeping a "secret" account by city officials, even after he provided detailed bank statements.

It was also suggested that alcohol is sold from the department's soda vending machine -- a claim Gilliam vehemently denied.

"This is a family environment. Often times there are more children down here than there are firemen on a Thursday night, and that's because we have worked so hard to turn this into a safe place to bring them," he said.

"Any notion that we would do something like that is just wrong," he added.

Despite the hard feelings attached to recent events, Gilliam says he will rest on the good memories he has made as chief.

"We have the best and hardest working volunteer firefighters I have ever had the pleasure of working beside. I'm so proud of all that we have been able to accomplish over the years," he said. "I've truly been blessed to be part of such a great department."

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.

Copyright 2014 - Journal-Times, Carter County, Ky.