I come before this Commission as a humble citizen of White Springs grateful for the Fire Protection and Emergency Services contract which you have instituted.
Since Kevin Pittman was forced to resign as Fire Chief in early 2018, we have not had a viable Fire Department. Instead we have names listed on a roster, which have no firefighting training, and lies that our former firefighters were willing to return under Chief Stith’s command.
Chief Stith does not carry either a firefighter one or a firefighter two certification. Instead he carries a Florida Minimum Standards Firefighting Certification Course issued through the Florida State Fire College, Ocala Florida. He was a Firefighter/Paramedic Captain for Hamilton County Fire Rescue in Jasper from 1998-2001, so you can determine whether his course work equates the new Firefighter one and Firefighter two certifications of today.
And Andrew Greene, his assistant fire chief barely could pass his firefighter one certification. But most importantly Greene has a condition of frequent blackouts, especially when he is near smoke or fire, which does not make him medically sound to be a firefighter. His Wife Dominique could not pass her certification and Chief Pittman would not sign off on the paperwork so she went elsewhere to get it signed. Thus I am especially pleased that the County shall require Annual medical Physicals, an Annual Fit Test among other specifications such as Firefighter 1 State Certificate of Compliance, NIMS, Wildland Fire Training, Emergency Medical Responder and Current CPR/AED certifications be kept as required under this contract.
None of the people on the roster, except for Stith himself, live in White Springs and we found it takes 45 minutes for the current department to respond.
At one time, under Chief Kevin Pittman, we had eight certified Firefighter one members and Two Firefighter Two members. At that time from July 1, 2017 to December, 2017, the records show there were 51 responses of which Chief Pittman responded to 35 calls, firefighter Brazil responded to 29 calls and firefighters Perez and Register responded to 27 calls. Assistant Chief Green responded to only 7 calls. From April 29, 2017, Green had not attended any department training function nor station shifts and did not follow department procedures.
When various attempts were made to address the workplace problems relating to Greene with Ms. Tebo, they went unheeded. We believe that because Greene removed all of the evidence against Robert Townsend, so Townsend could not be indicted, Greene is favored by Rhett Bullard and the Staff. As such Greene has been allowed to use the new SUV Fire Truck for his personal use along with a stipend of $120 per month and the Town pays for its maintenance and fuel, even for his visits to Tampa. That vehicle was meant for the firefighters’ use in the event they could not connect immediately with the responding Fire Engine. Instead they had to use their own vehicles and never were provided even $10 for their fuel and maintenance, while Greene had it parked at his home in Lake City.
We blame the Councilors of the Town of White Springs and especially our Town Manager, Stacy Tebo, for the loss of the best Fire Department, White Springs has ever had.
Although many reasons were given by the Town for forcing Kevin Pittman to resign as fire chief, one reason stands out above the rest. That is because he wished to remove Andrew Greene as Assistant Fire Chief because Greene was a danger to the other firefighters and lacked knowledge of firefighting procedures.
Part of Town Manager’s reasoning for eliminating Pittman as chief was because he had not taken the 40 hour course and renewed his previous instructor’s certification. Our charter does not require our Chief to be an instructor and Chief Stith definitely is not an instructor. Yet because the Town of White Springs will not invest any money in the Fire Department, it was because of Chief Pittman’s training that the majority of these firefighters received their certification.
I have learned from former firefighters who have worked with Chief Stith previously, that he has never fought a fire in White Springs nor in Hamilton County since he was chief in White Springs, before and after Chief Pittman.
And Unlike Kevin Pittman, Stith has not provided the firefighters Standard operating procedures nor training drills to ensure efficiency, predictability, consistency and safety for all his firefighters operating on the fire ground. Chief Pittman cared about the safety and well being of his brothers and was passionate about firefighting. That does not describe Stith for whom no one will work with and who technically has no current valid certified firefighters; and those of Greene and his spouse cannot be construed valid because neither can safely be involved in firefighting.
Another complaint was that Chief Pittman completed major repairs on the pre-owned fire Engine the Town was to purchase, the repairs amounting to $3,702.51, due to the engine having a faulty Turbo; And, of course just like for Hurricane Michael when Ms. Tebo purchased gasoline for the Department, not knowing the engines were diesel, she didn’t know what a “Turbo” was.
It may not be ascertained that even with the $17,000 provided by Hamilton County for White Springs Fire and Rescue Services, that the Town actually spent that money toward the Fire Department. In fact Chief Pittman and Firefighter Brazil spent their own time and money for the maintenance and upkeep of Fire Department Equipment. Since Stith is now the fire chief, the Town is allowing money for repairs because he and Greene are favored.
Under Chief Pittman, there were only three breathing apparatus for ten firefighters and although Town Manager Tebo stated such breathing devices were unnecessary and the Town Did not wish to spend money on such frivolous equipment, she blamed Chief Pittman for not securing a grant for them, which is Ms. Tebo’s job as manager.
Ms. Tebo removed the computer from the Fire Station so that reports could not be timely entered. Instead the information had to be given to Greene, who did not complete the information correctly or timely at Town Hall.
Greene told the firefighters that Town Manager Tebo had not allotted any budget for the department’s frivolous spending and the equipment they had then would have to suffice even though the degree of functioning equipment could be the difference between life and death for firefighters.
I cannot tell you how pleased I am with Mr. Land and this Commission. For the first time, White Springs, in order to be given money by Hamilton County, will have to work with it. They have previously misspent your money for their own benefit and purposes, leaving the Fire Department high and dry. And since the requirements of your contract will require the Fire Department of White Springs to shape up or ship out, perhaps we can have the opportunity of getting our former firefighters back along with Kevin Pittman. We know that Stith and Green will be unable to comply and that is a godsend to the people of White Springs, especially to those who cannot afford insurance. Hamilton County needs to have control of our Fire Department instead of a Town Manager and councilors who do not have a clue and all they do is mis-spend money.
Thank you again and Thank you for allowing me to provide my side of the Fire Department issue.