Fire ordinance sparks discussion at work session

Cinthia Stimson photo
Town of Glenrock Attorney Amy Iberlin and the town council met with representatives of the Glenrock/Converse County Fire Department Oct. 8 to listen to the department’s concerns regarding the new fire ordinance presently under proposal to change the all-volunteer department to one with a paid fire chief and up to six paid firefighter positions.

By Cinthia Stimson

The new fire ordinance proposed by the Glenrock Town Council which allows for the hiring of a paid fire chief and up to six paid firefighters may be up for the first of its three readings before council Monday night, Oct. 14, according to Amy Iberlin, the town’s attorney.
First, Iberlin said she’ll discuss the ordinance with Rolling Hills officials and hopefully come back to the Glenrock council for the new fire ordinance’s first reading next week.
Glenrock, Rolling Hills and Western Converse County come under the purview of Glenrock’s fire department.
Iberlin and the town council convened for a work session Tuesday night Oct. 8 and included Glenrock/Converse County Fire Department Acting Fire Chief Rob Brewer and Shon Lindsey, fire department captain, and Hummer Wickett, department president, in their conversations about the ordinance.
Glenrock’s fire department has historically been a volunteer-only department.
Today, the department has 27 volunteer firefighters, but has the capacity to have up to 45 firefighters, Brewer said.
Ideally, he’d be happy with 40-45 at the department. Presently, they’re about 20 volunteers short.
Council members said the need for paid positions is also due to the fact that less and less people are volunteering for the fire department, which makes their response times to calls longer.
As the evening went on, the work session talks appeared to go well between city government officials and members of the fire department, but that wasn’t always the case in the past, as indicated by a few comments made by Lindsey during the meeting.
“If we had been approached this way in the beginning, it would have been better,” he said, referring to the change from a volunteer fire department to a paid one.
The changes came across in a “take it or leave it” type of way, he explained to the council.
“You live with it or you’re gone. But, I’m glad we could talk about this. You have lots of time to get this done. The volunteers aren’t going anywhere. I do believe we can be the showcase of a department with both volunteers and paid (firefighters),” Lindsey said.
There was initial concern by the volunteers that they’d be obsolete – shoved out – if the town changed  the department to a paid fire protection service, Brewer said.
Fortunately, that’s not the case, as the council assured the fire department that it’s not an “us or them” situation, according to Glenrock Mayor Bruce Roumell.
“We want to work with the good people we have. We’re here to listen and work together toward a department that’s going to be the best it can be and what’s best for this town,” he said.
He also invited the qualified volunteer firefighters currently with the department to apply for the paid fire chief and paid firefighter positions if the ordinance passes and the jobs are posted in the future.
For now, the fire department representatives will go back to the rest of the volunteer firefighters who weren’t present for the meeting and share information about the intent of the council to communicate with the department, to the extent that the community’s best interests are at heart.
“I’ll get a group of guys together – say we go on a call today – give them a synopsis of the meeting (last night). It will filter down. There’s a lot of thoughts and feelings, but not concrete information. I want (our) guys to feel informed,” Brewer said.
“The potential is definitely there for a paid and volunteer department to work. Guys on the department have to buy into that idea, realize it’s for the community, not just for them,” he said.
Roumell said now it’s time to get the ordinance done and move forward with it.
“This whole thing, the change, is to make the department better and safer for our community,” he said.


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