Thomas Brazil sent many of us a video where the Dallas firefighters had to push their truck out of the bay. It is not funny because that is what happened in White Springs, but there was only Andrew and Stith and the fire truck couldn’t be started to go across the street and Bam! They left it sit while the Antique store burned across the street.
Every Time Walter McKenzie asks “How many volunteer fire fighters do we have within a 10 mile radius” And the answer is from Mr. Stith four are within a 15 mile radius. If someone really looked into this new wreck of a fire department with three of the four being unable to fight a fire (Andrew, Stith, Dominique), we would go to a class 10 rating. In other words, our fire rates would increase. This increase will be similar to the Windstorm Rates in Florida, less the assessments.
What was not relayed is the fact that Insurers do not like to write Class 10 business. As a result if one insurer has a bulk of houses in one area, they may give 60 day notice of Non-Renewal. Then try to secure another policy. You will be stuck with a Fire and Extended Coverage policy with a separate liability policy, separate inland marine policy for your possessions for theft and a separate liability policy. Your homeowner’s policy will be unbundled because of the risk of your home burning down to the ground before a fire department reaches it.
Because Stacy Tebo and Rhett Bullard could not leave our Fire Department alone, in time the ISO will classify our Town as a class 10 unprotected rating or possibly a nine, The recommendations by the ISO related to deficiencies in manpower, equipment and housing for the fire truck was rectified only in part with a new fire house.
There are a number of things which make no logical sense to me when it pertains to our Fire Department dilemma.
- Let’s start with Volunteers. How does the Town of White Springs hope to secure VOLUNTEERS? The Town, just as they offered Andrew Green books and tuition, needs to include in their budget Money the cost to train the number of volunteer firemen required. Those who currently do not have jobs, are on welfare or unemployment benefits then could take the 200 hour course and additional training courses which would be paid by the town. This is an incentive. Unfortunately No firefighter would wish to work under Andrew Greene. Why hasn’t SOMEONE THOUGHT ABOUT PAYING FOR THE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT TRAINING and have those interested complete applications and be interviewed prior to acceptance and payment of such training. Hopefully their gear is paid for by the Town or by grants because when Kevin Pittman took over as fire chief he had to beg and borrow items from other departments because White Springs doesn’t care about their Firefighters and that has not changed whatsoever. If Mayor Lofty had any intelligence whatsoever, he would check to see what is wrong with the existing department, the Chief and Andrew Greene and possibly bring back the old crew which actually gave a damned about White Springs.. It made me ill to hear that the firefighters like Kevin Pittman and Thomas Brazil not only maintained the trucks and equipment but also paid for its cost. Stacy Tebo is one of the worse Town managers ever and should have been removed at least a year ago. All she has done with the help of Rhett Bullard is ruin White Springs.
- At one time the Chief’s salary decreased from $6,751 to $4,200 in 2013. Yet in an economy in in which businesses were decreasing full time employees to part-time employees because of Obamacare; others lowering pensions, and making employees participate in the cost of their insurance, why is the Town of White Springs increasing administrative and sewer and water salaries just for Andrew Greene? Where are the increases for our Police Officers? Where are the incentive payments to firefighters when fighting a fire? Why has Andrew Greene been favored in all of these years. For instance many teachers have not had raises for seven and ½ years. Other businesses in the private sector have not given raises for the last three years, Where are our priorities? I can guarantee you that if you think the rate increase in Water and Sewer is bad, wait until you are cancelled by your present insurer or you receive a gigantic price increase from your current insurer. Andrew Green had been given his second salary increase for undertaking the Water Treatment Facility from $25,000 to $32,400 and this was in 2013. I bet if Kevin Pittman only received $4,200 that Steve Stith made himself a deal for more. Now since they break down the salaries so that 25% goes in the General Fund one is not sure what Andrew Greene makes but it is obvious he has a sweet deal. He is paid for code enforcement which he has never really done anything about; has been paid for his schooling; is allowed a credit card for fuel and maintenance of the new Fire Truck which he uses personally and God knows whatever benefits. Is he hiding what has been done to him by the former manager? or does he know too much about what is happening at Town Hall and outside in the official’s social arena? We don’t know but we do know, he sure doesn’t do a lot for the money he receives.
- The only exception to higher rates in a Class 10 area pertains to a Farm-owners policy whereby each building is inspected and insured for specific perils based upon its own merits. Farmers/Ranchers are business owners and not Town dwellers only, despite the farm animals raised in town. We would not even qualify as a hobby farm. Farms/Ranches have a totally different tax basis and special insurance programs for a Class 10 rating.
- The engineering aspect is $21,000 for carrying ladders per ISO had been ADDED in 2013, The Capital Outlay for Machinery and Equipment decreased from $25,000 in the 2011-2012 budget to $16,992 for the 2013-2014 term.. As I had stated previously, had not the previous town manager stolen the money the Fire Department earned by benefits, we may have never had this dilemma. But we must go on and I believe any future benefit monies taken in by the Fire Department should stay within the Fire Department and not be stolen by the Town for purposes other than fighting fires. The Town owes this to the Citizens and needs to step up when it comes to a fire department. But no one will work for Stith and Greene, so there you have it.
When the charter was formulated, the police department no one could terminate an officer’s employment unless the Council approved. Unfortunately the charter did not anticipate an unfair manager such as Stacy Tebo, who now under Tonja Brown wishes to give Stacy the full reign of hiring and firing. This is wrong, and by Ms. Tebo’s statements in the River’s case, she does not even know the officers in the police department. Although I do not have a lot of faith in our current Police Chief because of her fear of being terminated by Ms. Tebo if she does not lie on Tebo’s behalf, perhaps she would be better if she had full reign of the Police Department. It takes a lot of training to be a police officer and it is their livelihood that Stacy Tebo wishes to play with and that is WRONG.
As to the Fire Department, Ms. Tebo, by charter does not have any rights to Supervise the firefighters nor the Chief Kevin Pittman. In the days of John Peeler, now deceased, he formulated a great department which was outside of the reigns of the Town of White Springs. As a separate entity, they held many money making events and had sufficient fire equipment, unlike today. Not only that but any money coming in from Hamilton County yearly of $17,000 and other payments for services went directly into the Fire Department’s bank account.
For those who were not here at the time, our prior town manager, Robert Clayton Townsend, like the current manager but not for legal bills, ran out of money. It was the time when the budget had not changed from the $800,000 per year. At that time the Town elected to take some $10,000 from the Fire Department Account and when Mr. Peeler fought against the Town doing so, his days as fire chief, was terminated. Joe Griffin tried to secure a meeting for Mr. Peeler to fight the issue since the Fire Department was a separate entity, but somehow the town placed pressure or fear on him and as a result, he did not wish to pursue the matter.
Since that time the Town took over the Fire Department and it became worse when Stacy Tebo became our Town Manager. She has no idea of what a firefighter experiences, placing his or her life on the line for the sake of saving people and property. Police officers likewise place their lives on the line every day and it does not matter that we are a small town because one never knows what will transpire. I do not believe Ms. Tebo is qualified to know what these wonderful heroes do and instead she believes in a slacker who will do anything including lie and tattle to place himself first.
We are so proud of our firefighters who volunteer their services. They are not paid to assist the citizens but did so even during hurricane Irma. One who considers me a friend really irritated me when she said that the fire department assisted her in cutting down the tree that blocked her driveway; then had the audacity to say that they did not move the tree parts so she could get out of her driveway. I lost confidence in her as a friend as a result. Here, the firefighters did not have to do anything, but did so with the kindness of their heart. We have the best group, some of which are police officers as well and even Detective Cecil Brownfield comes back from Mayo to assist our firefighters.
They are a family of firefighters who have a dangerous job but volunteer and are committed to the community. How many of you would even consider doing their job for free?
It exacerbates me to know that each does not have adequate breathing equipment to assist in saving their lives and health. For Andrew Green to consider that to be frivolous, speaks for itself as to how green he is. Yes the Town is paying $5,000 as one of three payment for a pre-used fire truck, which means they should have $12,000 left out of the $17,000 Hamilton County provides to purchase additional necessary equipment.
Kevin Pittman is considered the glue that holds the family together and to be told to give his resignation is beyond the pale. He has done so much for this community and deserves better. Yet as you reviewed former Chief Stith’s letter, you will see that if Stacy does not get her way, she will do anything to anyone that is not in her group. If Rhett Bullard allows this travesty of removing Kevin Pittman, he will be not doing any favors for this town because he is the one that keeps the firefighter family together; not the Town; not Rhett and definitely not Stacy Tebo who has no understanding of the risks police and firefighters take.
So, whomever is on the committee, please change the supervisory and hiring and firing position to the Council as a whole (similar to Stacy Tebo’s contract ) whereby no one may be removed unless 4 of 5 councils elect to remove a police officer or a firefighter. The Town will surely vote for this because most of us with a brain realize what both the Police and Firefighters do for us in this community.
Karin for the blog