Saturday, June 09, 2007

News coverage of Selma fire department walk out

Selma Mayor Wants Suspended Firefighters Gone for Good
Nearly half of Selma's volunteer fire department was suspended after walking off the job Thursday.

Posted: Jun. 8 11:43 p.m.
Updated: Today at 7:31 a.m.

Selma — Nearly half of Selma's volunteer fire department was suspended after walking off the job Thursday.

But a suspension is not enough, Mayor Charles Hester said Friday. He wants them gone.

Hester walked outside his house Thursday evening to find 10 firefighters' gear, including boots and hats, lined up on his sidewalk.

The display was in protest of the town manager's decision to replace their volunteer fire chief -- who has been with the department for more than 30 years -- with a new paid, full-time chief.

Mike Kendall was one of those firefighters who walked off the job. He said this is just the latest in a battle that's been brewing for years between Selma's volunteer firefighters and town leaders.

"Let him go out with his dignity. Don't throw him out, and that's what they're determined to do," Kendall said. "If the town's going to be ugly, we're going to be ugly."

The firefighters say hiring a full-time engineer would cost less, much less than $55,000, and help them more with maintenance. But Town Manager Stan Farmer has the last say. He thinks the department needs better leadership.

"It's not up to the employees to tell the town manager who to hire as a department head," Farmer said.

Kendall disagrees.

"The city manager isn't going into a house that’s burning, so I don't think he needs to do the hiring," he said.

Hester said he plans to dismiss the 10 firefighters from their positions. At least one fireman says go ahead.

"There's really not much they can say that would make me want to be a fireman here anymore," Kendall said.

Here is the WRAL video story.

Ten Selma firefighters walk off the job
06/08/2007 09:09 PM
By: Ann Forte

Selma, N.C. -- Ten of the Selma Fire Department's 25 firefighters turned in their gear to Selma's mayor earlier this week. The dispute is over the possibility of town leaders hiring a full-time fire chief at an annual salary of $55 thousand; some firefighters think the money would be better spent on an engineer for the department rather than a full-time chief.

Currently, the department is all volunteers, but the volunteers do receive a small paycheck from the town each month. The firefighters who walked off the job are now suspended without pay.

Next week the current fire chief will meet with town officials to try to reach an agreement. In the meantime, town officials say if a fire breaks out, surrounding departments will help out. Town leaders also say insurance rates should not be affected by the dispute.

I have done a monologue on this subject on my latest "Straight Shooting" internet radio show. I covered a few other topics, as well. My opinion on this subject was covered on this blog and will be in The Selma News on Thursday.

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