Volunteer Fire Departments To Receive New Contract
By TIM MONZINGO
The 11 volunteer fire departments in Smith County's Emergency Service District 2 received notice Monday night that the contract that governs their operations in the district is up for change.
A committee of fire chiefs, working with the district, drafted a new contract to replace one in use for the past seven years, district president Mitch Henderson said Monday afternoon.
"It was too broad in its scope. It didn't really define the areas of expenditures and things of that nature," Henderson said of the previous contract. "With (the fire chiefs') help and their hands-on involvement, we have formulated a new contract."
The district encompasses the volunteer fire departments for Arp, Bullard, New Chapel Hill, Dixie, Flint-Gresham, Jackson Heights, Noonday, Red Springs, Whitehouse, Troup and Winona.
Henderson said the notice given during Monday's meeting was a "formality" and not expressly guaranteed in the old contract.
The agenda item associated with the new contract specifically read that the district's board of directors would discuss or vote on the "authority to send out cancellation of old contracts with all (volunteer fire departments) before end of June in order to give 90-day notice and institute discussions of new contracts."
Bullard Fire Chief Keith Newburn said departments were concerned that the new contract would make it more difficult to do their work.
"They're trying to write a new contract that's got a lot of issues and statements written in there to benefit the emergency service district and kind of puts the volunteer fire departments in a bind," said Newburn, who was not at the meeting.
More than 45 people, including many members from different departments in the district, attended the meeting.
Henderson clarified during the meeting that Monday's announcement was only to inform the departments that in 90 days after review of the new contract was completed, it would be voted on.
In other business, the district heard from Whitehouse Assistant City Manager Kevin Huckabee, who proposed making the volunteer department serving the city a full-time municipal department.
He said the combination of volunteers and full-time paid staff would help the department and the district in the end.
"It seems like it would make sense for us to group together to address the goals (of the district and fire department)," he said. "We want to be more dependent on ourselves. We have no intentions of abandoning the ESD."
The board tabled discussion of the proposal until they had time to further discuss it.