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Rhome council, fire dept. work to get on same page

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Rhome fire chief will stay and the department – along with other city officials – has formulated a plan to address “problems” that have plagued it.

Days after submitting his resignation, Jason Miller called an emergency meeting Thursday to formalize his decision to remain as chief of the volunteer department.

That evening, members of the fire department and city council gathered at the fire hall to discuss ways to increase membership and open lines of communication.

Miller, who was named interim fire chief in April, said that as long as he’s served with the department, membership has held between six and nine. The number on the roster has remained at six “for a long time.”

At the meeting Thursday, Councilman Charles Pennington stepped up to serve.

Mayor Louis Godfrey said he and Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson are working on flyers and “out doing things” to recruit members, while Councilman David Wilson is “thinking about signing up” and Councilman Ronnie Moore “might.”

Moore was the only member of the city council not present at Thursday’s meeting.

In January, the council met to discuss the right of a city council member to also volunteer as a member of fire department after Moore had argued that serving on both constitutes a conflict of interest.

Councilwoman Michelle Pittman, who was on the council then, was and continues to be a volunteer firefighter.

“The support is there, and it has been extended many times by Charles and others,” Godfrey said. “If you need help, let us know. We can’t help if you don’t ask for it.

“I think it’s important that we all understand that we all want to work together,” he added. “The council is behind you. I’m behind you. We just need to be better informed. If you have a problem, address it as quickly as possible.”

Godfrey said he felt recruiting and retaining volunteers for the department would be the responsibility of both the fire department and the council.

To expedite the process, Godfrey at City Hall said he will handle all applications for the fire department.

“I think it’s best that every application, they come to City Hall, they fill it out, we’ll run the background checks really fast and get this thing done … If things come back OK, I’ll get the word to you as quick as possible, there you go,” he told Miller.

“I’ll keep copies. If you guys absolutely have to have copies, then I’ll make you copies. I’ll keep the originals in my office.

“That’s the fastest way to do it,” he continued. “I think we’ve had some problems with applications being filled out then you don’t get the time to bring them to City Hall or the council getting to look at them. We can alleviate a lot of that.

“The whole idea is to fast-track, get rid of the red tape, get them on here, get them useful.”

But the bigger idea is to work together to “ensure citizens have the level of service they deserve.”

“I think the key to making this work is communication,” Pennington said. “Lets just keep an open line of communication. I think we’ll have a great relationship and move our fire department forward and grow it to make it the biggest, best we’ve ever had.”

MEMBERSHIP DRIVE

Rhome Fire Department is conducting a membership drive during the Labor Day weekend. Rhome firefighters will be at Shale Creek 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Applications will be available on site.

Those who attend can meet the volunteer firefighters and see the fire truck.

Applications are also available at the Rhome Fire Station, 261 N. School Road, over Labor Day weekend or at Rhome City Hall, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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