Full-time firefighters not necessary

By Jim Willbanks | Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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Attention Rhome residents: I feel you need to be made aware that your city council is currently working to spend a large sum of money to employ two firefighters for the volunteer fire department.

That’s right. They plan on paying the current fire chief a salary to work Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 and one other part-time employee as well. A city with around 1,400 citizens has no business trying to run a paid fire department. My tax money could and should be spent in a better way – especially when the fire chief lacks the professionalism we need to employ.

I volunteered for about 20 years in a community twice this size, and we ran 1,500 calls a year (Rhome runs about 800) and did it with all volunteers. There are currently 17 fire departments in Wise County with only one being paid – in Decatur, a city with more than 15 times the population of Rhome. The other 16 fire departments are all volunteer and handle it just fine.

Are there a few times you have no response? Of course – that is part of it. That’s why there are mutual aid agreements with other departments for fires.

I recently asked one of the council members why they feel they need to pay for volunteers. Her response was that they don’t have enough members on the fire department to run calls. Can anyone tell me how hiring two people to work Monday through Friday 8 to 5 will solve that problem? You will be taking two people who are already volunteering and paying them. That does nothing to get more people to volunteer.

How about you figure out why people like me refuse to volunteer in Rhome? I was told the department used to have lots of volunteers, but the numbers have dropped quickly. Maybe that’s where we should start looking, instead of wasting tax money.

I also asked about a conflict of interest with the mayor. I respect him for volunteering for his community, but how is it that he holds the position of assistant chief of the fire department and within one year of being elected mayor, they are trying to pay firemen? That raises a red flag for me.

The city council should spend our tax dollars better. How about put some more into the park? How about if we have that much extra money, lower my taxes when our economy is hurting so bad? Everyone in Rhome needs to attend a meeting and speak out against this wasteful spending.

Jim Willbanks

2 Responses to “Full-time firefighters not necessary”

  1. One year ago when the budget was being drawn up, three councilmen proposed hiring Robert Pratt in a paid position at a salary of approximately $46,000. The money for this salary would have been taken from the city employee’s paid insurance premiums, and the employees would have to pay that premium. Two council members, opposed it saying the position would be created on the backs of the employees. It was dropped. It is not surprising that the mayor, who just happens to be the assistant fire chief, would propose the position be established again. Doesn’t any city with a population of about 1,400 people, and with a volunteer fire department with a total of six (6) active firemen, need a full-time, and now also a part-time, paid personnel. The proposed budget included a $73,000 increase in wages. I assume this was for these positions. If the city has $73,000 they don’t know what to do with, just look around. I can see a lot of places where it can be used. How about a code enforcement officer to help clean up the city? I agree with Mr. Willbanks. It is time the residents of Rhome get involved in how our tax dollars, which are already too high, are spent. I am not speaking against the fire department. But if we can only get six volunteers, perhaps it is time we join with a county/district fire department. And if no one is interested in volunteering, maybe someone should look into the reason why.
    Sandra McBride

  2. It shocks me that a town of 1700 only has 6 people who are willing to step up and volunteer. Shouldn’t all personal feelings and vendettas (which are apparant in this letter)be put aside for the better of the community? Shouldn’t the majority rule out the fire chief if there is a problem? I also wonder if the fact that Rhome is the only city except for Alvord that has a major interstate running through it matter in thie decision? All of the other towns are on less traveled state highways. Is there an advantage with reduced insurance rates that could be affecting this decision?


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