Fire department board members address commission

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There was no action taken by Chilton County Commissioners Monday night regarding the funds, which have been temporarily frozen, for West Chilton Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1.

Commissioners will have to wait to re-release funding to the volunteer fire station until the fire department is able to meet certain criteria for an operative volunteer fire station.

Some of the criteria the station will have to meet include having a building, equipment, a board, a checking account, an ISO rating, a chief and firemen.

The three newly elected board members of West Chilton Fire Station No. 1 were present at the meeting on Monday to meet with commissioners.

“We just wanted to let you all know that we are working to get things where they need to be,” board member Jerrod Leach told commissioners. “We are working on things as hard as we can, but we wanted you all to know that we are here and doing everything we can to get things to the point they need to be.”

Leach, Lynn Gothard and Tim Lovett were selected to be the three board members instrumental for selecting a complete board for West Chilton Station No. 1 during a public meeting on Saturday.

Leach told commissioners the fire department has received a lot of support from the community.

“There were over 100 people who showed up to the meeting on Saturday,” Leach said. “We have found that a lot of people are concerned about the fire station and wanting to see it get back to where it needs to be.”

Commissioners unanimously voted during the Aug. 11 meeting to temporarily hold funding of West Chilton Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1 until more answers could be provided about the organization.

The funding was withheld because the department was left without an active board following the arrest of its chief and two treasurers on July 29.

They were charged with theft of property and extortion.

The investigation is ongoing.

Adam Price also addressed the commission on Monday regarding West Chilton Volunteer Fire Station No. 2.

Price told commissioners that after the public meeting adjourned on Saturday to elect new board members for West Chilton Volunteer Fire Station No. 1, a separate group of board members was appointed for West Chilton Volunteer Fire Station No. 2.

“I was at the meeting on Saturday, and there was a lot of concern from people at the meeting about station No. 2,” Price said. “There were four board members appointed after the meeting on Saturday to handle station No. 2.”

Commissioner Joseph Parnell asked Price if there had previously been “co-mingling” of funds between the two fire stations.

“I have heard some different things, but what I have heard is there are some actual funds where no one knows which station owns them,” Parnell said.

Price said it was his understanding that some of the funds had previously been “co-mingled.”

“I am a community member, but it has been my understanding that the two departments would need to agree to come up with an agreement,” Price said. “If not, you would have to go to court.”

Parnell encouraged both fire departments to work together and work out the problems with the fire departments in a “sensible way.”

“I just fear that you are going to find that all of the equipment is under one name,” Parnell said.

Leach told commissioners he was in the process of locating a safety deposit box, which contained different documents, that could provide further insight into how the funds were handled.

Commissioner Shannon Welch thanked the board at West Chilton Volunteer Station No. 1 for stepping up to sort out different things with the department.

“You have a mess to sort out,” Welch said.

Commissioners also heard from Donna Wyatt who spoke to commissioners on behalf of the county retirees.

Wyatt asked commissioners to consider approving a one-time, lump-sum monetary bonus for county retirees in October.

“I have a group of retirees here tonight, and we wanted to meet with you one more time before the deadline of Aug. 31,” Wyatt said. “We would like for you to consider the one-time lump sum for retirees, and we would appreciate your consideration.”

Parnell said although he was thankful for all the work the retirees did for the county, he had an issue with the fact current employees with the county have not had a cost of living increase in several years.

“These people are working for us every day, and I feel like are underpaid,” Parnell said. “That causes me to be reluctant. We are also borrowing money right now to cover our sheriff’s budget until the end of year. If we don’t have enough money to pay for that, I can’t agree to pay retirees.”

Commissioners Heedy Hayes and Bobby Agee were the only two commissioners who voted in favor of the motion to give the one-time bonus for county retirees.

Commissioners Joe Headley, Allen Caton, Greg Moore, Shannon Welch and Parnell voted against the motion.

The motion failed 5-2.

In other news, the commission:

•Voted to allow Dan Moultrie, a resident on County Road 515, to schedule and advertise for a public hearing to close the road.

Moultrie said portions of the road were “plagued with problems” including a washout and illegal dumping.

•Voted to approve a new set of rules and regulations for Higgins Ferry Park.

•Voted to approve a new set of rates for campers at Higgins Ferry Park. The new rates would include increasing the water and electricity campsites from $15 per night to $17 per night and full RV hook-up sites with water, sewer and electricity from $17 to $21 per night.

•Approved a request for a leave of absence of Jason Davis from the Chilton County Road Department while he completes educational courses.

•Voted to allow Chilton County Engineer Tony Wearren to take a crew of workers during a rainy day and remove older political signs from the northbound and southbound sides of Interstate 65.

Wearren will contact ALDOT to get permission to remove the signs.