Town & fire department disagreement ignites both sides

Ethan Brogan

Murmurings have been circulating of friction between the Town of Glenrock and the Glenrock Volunteer Fire Department.
The center of the debate has been over long-time GVFD Fire Chief Jeff Nelson. On three occasions, members of council met with several GVFD members to discuss complaints they have had about Nelson.
“The town contacted us and wanted to hold a meeting with Jeff,” GVFD President Hershel Wickett said, remarking that mayor Doug Frank and councilman Bruce Roumell met with GVFD officers to discuss Jeff.
“They have made the flat statement (that) it didn’t make a difference what the fire department decided, they would not approve Jeff as the fire chief,” Wickett said.
“They told us there had been an overwhelming number of complaints,” Wickett said, remarking that he filed a freedom of information request and received two complaints back.
“One of the two complaints was invalid, neither complaint included Jeff,” Wickett said. “The other one was by a member of the council.”
At the core of the debate, is how the fire chief is selected.
For a fire chief to be appointed, they must first be nominated by the GVFD. Then, they are presented to council, where the mayor can nominate them for a vote to be instated, according to the Glenrock Town Code Book.
There lies a gray area between state statutes and the town’s code.
State statute dictates that, unless otherwise provided by ordinance, the fire chief shall be appointed by the mayor with the consent of the governing body.
The town’s ordinance states that a nominee for fire chief rests solely on the members of the department. The town’s code also states that the mayor may only remove a fire chief if a recommendation is made by the department.
“There is some room for interpretation in there, I suppose, if one wanted to argue about it,” Frank said. “There is a chance we will take the name put forward by the fire department under advisement and maybe we move on it.”
Whether the heated debate will be extinguished or combust is still up in the air. Regardless, the GVFD will be at the Jan. 8 council meeting in full-force to see if Nelson is voted in by council.
If Nelson isn’t voted in during the meeting, Wickett thinks the GVFD won’t be anxious to comply with council.
“They expect us to come back and bring another name, which I do not believe we will,” Wickett said.


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