Firefighters worried about city council’s agenda

Jodi Summit

GREENWOOD TWP — The city council’s 3-2 decision last month to fire three of the township’s top firefighters drew a small crowd of firefighters to City Hall Tuesday night to picket the decision.
The dozen firefighters hoisted signs to passing cars to protest the decision, with some even calling for the firing of supervisors who backed the decision to sack fire chief David Fazio, deputy chief Mike Indihar and fire officer Rick Worringer training.
In a document prepared for the media, members of the department wrote that the fire department currently has more members, at 21, than ever before and has increased its EMS response rate to 100% over the past three years.
Department members disputed City Council‘s concerns about equipment maintenance and noted that maintenance was being performed by the township’s full-time maintenance worker.
“Firefighters attempted to perform all required maintenance as best they could,” they wrote, “in an effort to save money for the township and keep all equipment running. service”.
The document also accused the majority of the board and some citizens of creating a hostile environment, making it difficult to recruit new members. They claimed that the majority of the board “seems to place very little value on volunteers, as evidenced by the dismissal of all officers”.
The document also criticized reporting on this ongoing issue by the Timberjay and accused the paper of “biased, inflammatory and even incorrect reporting”.
The group was also highly critical of supervisor Rick Stoehr, who took on the role of overseeing township maintenance and fire department issues.
Discussion inside City Hall was also heated at times, but township officials focused on correcting fire department issues that had been uncovered. Members of the fire department demonstrating outside did not attend the town council meeting.
Fire equipment maintenance issues took up a lot of time during the over two hour meeting.
Stoehr had a heavy equipment mechanic visit the fire station to make sure Engine 1, which had stalled during training and then during a fire call, was roadworthy. A computer scan of the truck showed two faulty events had occurred and indicated a faulty camshaft sensor. Mike Igo then drove the truck to his shop for repairs and maintenance, as well as a DOT inspection.
During the service, Stoehr reported, other major issues were uncovered, including issues that will require replacement of the truck’s air compression systems.
“At this point and given the age of the truck,” Stoehr said, “it is not possible to get even a rough estimate of the cost of replacing the tanks until replacements can be found, except to say it’s going to be quite expensive.
Stoehr said the problems found illustrate the detrimental effects that the lack of annual and monthly inspections, as well as “random” maintenance, have on this increasingly expensive equipment.
Stoehr and Acting Chief Jeff Maus had two more trucks serviced and inspected, and the rest of the equipment will be serviced soon.
“The township will have established a baseline that will ensure that all mobile devices will receive annual maintenance and monthly inspections,” he said.
Stoehr warned the board that he would see “significant claims” in the coming months.
“It’s about undoing what can only be described as neglect,” Stoehr said. “Not only has the reliability of key township assets been compromised, but consider the additional risk imposed on firefighters and their mutual aid partners who rely on the reliability of this equipment.
Other firefighter issues
Acting Chief Jeff Maus told the board that two days after the board’s decision to remove department leadership, six department members responded to a structural fire call and nine EMS calls later in the month were answered. all had an answer.
“All of our services are filled,” he said.
At the fire department business meeting on October 4, which saw little attendance, the group discussed managing ongoing maintenance, filling trucks after a run, monthly checks of basic items such as lights, tires, oil, etc. Maus said the department will follow up on any issues found with the devices to ensure they are resolved.
Maus said they were also developing a system to deal with false alarms in the room. He noted that the department had been warned three times in the last month about false alarms and was working with the alarm company to train members on how to respond and determine if an alarm was due to a faulty sensor, for example. . Maus also said they were working on establishing guidelines for end-of-season service requirements for fireboats, and that he was working with boat manufacturers on developing a checklist. .
Maus said he spoke with three potential new members of the department.
Ralston asked how Maus was going to earn the trust and respect of current members of the fire department who are unhappy with their treatment by the city council.
“They didn’t show up for the last business meeting,” Ralston said. “It shows no confidence in the acting chief.”
Maus said most of the members joined with the intention of serving the township, as well as his personal intention.
“They are all adults and make their own decisions,” he said. “I hope they want to serve the township.”
Ralston said that if he saw no signs that Maus had earned the trust of department members, he would present a motion for Maus to step down from his post at the next monthly meeting.
McGrath study
Council members questioned Supervisor Ralston about an appearance of secrecy surrounding the McGrath study into the area’s ambulance problems.
“I may have missed it,” Maus said, “but I didn’t get an invite [to meet in person with the consultants]and I would have liked to see Peggy Nelson, a longtime paramedic there.
Maus said he spent about three hours working with the consultants and was working to gather all the information they requested.
Ralston said he spoke to DMEs in the department and invited them to attend.
Clerk JoAnn Bassing asked Ralston if her office could be copied on correspondence between the McGrath Group and the township, which went through Ralston.
“You’re not going to get it,” Ralston said. “McGrath will provide a report to the board when this is complete.”
Stoehr disagreed with Ralston’s approach.
“I don’t see where the problem is,” Stoehr said.
But Skubic agreed with Ralston.
“It’s all ridiculous,” he said. “You nitpick about everything.”
Ralston said the correspondence included personal comments.
“I’ll ask them if they want to pass the information on to the clerk,” he said.
The council passed a motion on a 3-2 vote, with Ralston and Skubic voting against, to include the town clerk on all information sent between Ralston and the McGrath group.
Stoehr also reiterated that the Township of Greenwood has “absolutely no interest in being in the ambulance business itself, or having control over TAAS or any other ambulance service.”
The intent of the study, he said, was to examine the feasibility of making improvements with the possibility of eventually obtaining an ALS ambulance service to better serve all of our residents.
The council took no action on the payment of the 2022 Tower Ambulance grant, citing no current contract for 2022.
Stoehr said the city of Tower violated the contract from 2021, by failing to pay out grants for transfer miles on time, as well as failing to produce a business plan as required by the contract.
City council members were also offended by reported comments from Breitung supervisor Chuck Tekautz, who pointed the finger at Greenwood for not supporting the ambulance grant.
“We haven’t seen the contract,” President Sue Drobac said. “The ambulance has to serve us, whether we pay or not.”
Supervisor Paul Skubic agreed. “We have to support them, but they also have to come to our side.”
Resident Lee Peterson asked why the service needed to replace the second ambulance, with 130,000 miles on it, when other area services like Virginia put many, many more miles on their platforms before they needed replace them. He blamed the decision on the department accepting too many calls for hospital-to-hospital transfers.
other business
In other cases counsel:
• Will offer a CPR course this winter to members of the fire department and interested township residents, including seasonal residents.
• Accepted the resignation of Fire Department Administrative Assistant, Tammy Mortaloni, and will advertise the position.
• There was discussion of inviting OSHA to conduct a compliance visit to the fire department in the future.
• Discussed a Small Claims Court case filed by Mortaloni against the Township for late payment of wages. The case arose out of payment for time spent writing a grant application. The city council had asked for more details before paying the claim, then once it had been approved, submitted the wages to their payroll department. Maus said that for some reason the check had not been processed, but he had not been informed that it had not been sent. Once the township realized that the check had not been processed, the problem was resolved, but in the meantime a small claims case had been filed.
• Approved some minor changes to the Fire Department’s Standard Operating Guidelines to comply with Township policies and asked Council members to review the entire document to see if any additional changes are needed.
• Seek new submissions for the Township website, which is not currently being updated.
• Appointed John Bassing as Alternate Tower Area Ambulance Commission.
• Noted that absentee ballot applications are available at City Hall, but that these applications are being processed by St. Louis County, not the township, for the upcoming general election.
• Approved the maintenance of the City Hall furnaces and some other maintenance work in the fire station. Noted that absentee ballot requests are available at City Hall, but that such requests are being processed by St. Louis County, not the township, for the next general election.
• Approved the maintenance of the City Hall furnaces and some other maintenance work in the fire station.

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