Okla. Firefighters Step in to Help With City Projects

June 15, 2013
Volunteers with the Waurika Fire Department draw praise for their willingness to help with projects around the city, including lawn mowing.

June 12--WAURIKA -- With the city in a clean-up mode, the Waurika Volunteer Fire Department drew praise from the city manager, when the Waurika City Commission met in regular session.

Reviewing his report for the month of May, City Manager Chuck Brown said the fire department had requested the city purchase a lawn mower for the department's use. In exchange, members of the fire department would use the mower to assist in grooming the downtown area and city parks.

"This is a great solution," Brown said, "and I plan to get them a mower in the near future.

"The fire department also proposed to help us with the pavilion in Harmon Park by rebuilding the roof on the pavilion.

"We want to thank the department for stepping up and helping us with these projects."

The fire department's assistance fits in with a general clean-up project the city has been conducting since late winter. There was a citywide cleanup bulk trash project in May that was a success, according to Brown's written report.

"The Saturday work crew got a lot accomplished and there were many loads of trash and tires dumped at the street barn," he noted. "(Street Superintendent) Virgil (Duncan) and his crew worked to clean up the rest of the town, after the bulk trash pick up (by Progressive Waste Solutions).

"The street department has gotten a lot accomplished in the last month."

The WVFD also was the topic of an agenda item during the meeting at City Hall. Firefighters recently voted for officers for 2013. The unanimous results retained David Morris as chief, while Hank Latta was assistant chief, Brandon Austin treasurer and Stephen Dyer training officer.

However, Brown told the commissioners the slate of officers should not be approved. He cited a statute in the city charter "that says only the city manager can fill the fire chief and assistant fire chief positions and set their salaries."

In response, Morris said firefighters had elected officers the entire 23 years he's been in the department, including when Brown was fire chief.

Brown acknowledged the past system, but reiterated the city charter said the chief and assistant chief were to be appointed by the city manager, not by a firefighter vote. He also noted that department officers should be NIMS certified.

Morris pointed out he was the only officer currently NIMS certified, but added, "I told them all no one can be an officer unless they get NIMS certified."

Morris added, "We have a dang good fire department. ... I don't like (the new system) because my guys vote on everything, and now (the city is) saying it doesn't matter how (firefighters) vote."

Vice Mayor Carole Eakin said the system of selecting fire department officers could be changed, but altering a city charter statute would require a public election.

Joining the conversation, Councilman Jeremie Wilson asked if Brown and the firefighters could come to some agreement on the format of installing officers. Both felt a compromise was possible and the commissioners voted unanimously to table the matter until their July meeting.

In other action, the commissioners and the Waurika Public Works Authority trustees approved:

- Increasing the amount of funds being placed in the 6 percent Special Savings Account created to build a cache of emergency and materials funds for the Waurika Water Treatment Facility sewer system. Raising the account to 10 percent, the commissioners approved redirecting money from other city accounts to increase the 6 percent account.

- Providing $1,500 in materials for work on the pavilion in Harmon Park.

- Having Brown come up with a backup plan to alert residents of a weather or other emergency should the city's siren network not work, as was the case during a thunderstorm on May 20.

- Going out for bids for someone to bail hay on city property south of the sewer lagoons at the water plant.

- An inventory-related Fixed Asset Policy created by Brown on recommendation of the city's auditors.

- Adopting a plan created by the Waurika EMS District Board for improving and retaining EMTs and EMRs in Waurika and Ryan.

- Treasurer Rachel Gallaher's report for the month of May.

- The following claims on the General Fund, which totaled $7,016.17: City Clerk -- $257.21; Police -- $1,868.58; Fire -- $951.55; Street -- $1,763.87; Library -- $51.95; Ambulance -- $2,124.01.

- The following claims on other funds: Rural Fire -- $473.20; Police Equipment -- $2,190.74; Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District -- $6,761.85.

- Minutes, with corrections, from a regular meeting on May 6.

Addressing a problem on the west side Harmon Park, Commissioner Bill Everett said something needed to be done with rock that was brought to the park for erosion control along a creek. Everett said there was potential for someone to be injured, and called the rock pile "an eyesore, with varmints around and kids running across the rocks. We're going to get sued if something happens."

The commissioners appointed Brown to seek a way to have the rock used for its initial intent within 45 or have the rock removed.

Hoping to expand communication with the Waurika Chamber of Commerce, the commissioners agreed to place an item on the monthly meeting agenda that would be for updates and matters concerning the chamber and the city.

In his manager report, Brown praised recent events hosted by the chamber, including the first Moneka Trail 5K Run and "Downtown Again" festival.

During a brief WPWA meeting, the trustees approved Gallaher's treasurer report for May.

The also approved the following claims on the WPWA Fund totaling $10,714.81: Sanitation -- $1,874.32; Administration -- $1,194.81; Sewer -- $1,240.94; Water -- $6,404.81.

Copyright 2013 - Waurika News-Democrat, Okla.

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