OMAHA, Neb. - Years of bickering in the tiny north-central Nebraska town of Long Pine has erupted into a free-for-all that dismantled the town's fire department and has seen the doors of City Hall locked to the public.
The strife in the town of about 300 came to a head when the City Council voted Monday to dismiss 15 members of the volunteer fire department. The council presented a list of grievances against the volunteers. Among them were accusations that they held illegal meetings, had alcohol on city property and were not in compliance with workers' compensation and liability insurance requirements.
The city's former mayor, Sue Brown, says the conflict began more than three years ago, when plans to renovate the town's fire hall were abandoned after a new mayor was elected.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Probably depends how it is set up, what the requirements are, etc.
Around here, the Municipalities are required by Provincial Regulation to have fire protection in place. They may have their own fire department(s) or hire a neighboring department to cover them.
It kind of sounds like an "old boys club" that needed some "repair"...maybe the only avenue was to dismantle it and hire outsiders to cover. Hopefully the council is looking at a way to re-start the department.
I am from the long pine dept. (as of now we are the long pine rural dept.) We have been trying to build a new fire hall for many years when a group of people got together and raised over 650,000.00 dollars in cash, grants, in-kind work, and donations. Everything was going okay until the current mayor (Al Graves) got elected. He does not like the people of the group who raised the money nor does he like many of the members of the fire dept. He and the city council decided that wouldn't pursue the project and lost all the matching grants and cash pledges. We are also a rural fire dept and 99% of our equipment and gear is rural that was bought with donations or is loaned to our dept from rural fire district.
He then decided that he would take over control of our money that we raised so that he could put up a metal shed and call that our new fire hall. In nebraska , there is a state statue that covers fire dept money that comes in donations and fund raisers as separate from the city to be used at the dept's direction. We had to hire an attorney to defend our money. We finally came up with an agreement between the city, the dept., and the other enities involved so that we could go forward and try to at least build something.
He refused to sign it, they has since decided that they could just fire us (how do you fire volunteers ?) and take our money. Because of recent thefts (someone removed 5 years of our records from the fire hall), the rural board decided that we needed to move our trucks and gear to an alternate local. The city refused and we had to get another attorney to get our rural trucks out of the hall. The city however did not let us take any of our gear.
Thanks to the surrounding fire depts who are supporting us, They have lent us bunker gear, and communications so we are once again almost functional. We actually responded to our first fire last week as a rural dept.
This is a very bad situation for our city as now we can only respond when a mutual aid call is given from the nearby towns fire dept. I am hoping that we can come up with some kind of resolution before something bad happens.
Wow! I am glad we, as a volunteer department, have no ties to our local government. We are a separate non-profit entity, funded by contracts with the ESD's and counties we serve. All our property and apparatus are our separate property or that of the one county we are located in.
Sure sorry to see that happen to Lone Pine.
A volunteer department I was once a member of answered to city hall. When a large commercial building was built in the city the owners wrote a check to the city for $500,000.00 to buy a ladder truck. "City fathers" remodeled city hall with the money! The department never got the truck! Hope that plant never catches fire.
My heart goes out to you and your fire department.
I blog for the fire service and we are going to get the story out.
Once, I post the blog, please feel free to comment.
In the meantime, don't lose hope.
Political agendas stink! I'm glad to hear that your fighting this administration some what successfully. I'm also glad to hear the whole story and find out that this department is NOT an "old boys club". I apologize to the members of this department who may have thought I categorized them as such but I merely stated that until we knew more it sounded like one situation or the other. Good luck brothers in your difficult times ahead.
I don't find it hard to believe that, in a town of 300, old boy politics could result in the arbitrary and punitive dismantling of a volunteer fire department. Likewise I have no problem believing that, in a town of 300, a volunteer fire department could be operating as an old boy's club with arrogance and malfeasance.
One has to ask why would the 'new' mayor be so against the fire department? How could he justify dismantling the community's fire protection? Why would the doors to city hall be locked?
But there are other questions that arise as well. Why are 5 years of department records missing? Are the accusations that the department was "not in compliance with workers' compensation and liability insurance requirements" true? Did the department violate laws/ordinances with regard to alcohol on department property? http://fwix.com/omaha/share/0a5db4efc5/Towns_troubles_hit_fire_depa... How did the department, town and other entities come to an agreement without the consent of the mayor?
I'm not taking one side or the other but pointing out that there appears to be a lot of discrepancies in the story. Dismantling a fire department is an enormous act of stupidity and incompetence, regardless of the reasons and issues.
The town I came up in has a corp. fire department. We raised funds and as a corp. were able to make decisions seperate from trhe city bs. There are ties and the deaprtment covers both the rural area surrounding the city, as well as the city itself.
It is a sad situation your departmetn finds itself in and my heart goes out to you...
You will have to ask the mayor that question on why he dislikes us.
The records are in the fire hall next to the city building. They were there until approx three weeks ago when our secretary went to retrieve some records and discovered them missing. This has been turned over to local law enforcement for investigation.
The thing about the insurance was the mayor was told several times that the rural fire district carried all the insurance on us and that they were double insuring us.
As to the consent on the at least trying to go forward with building something, it was his own lawyer that put together the meeting and drew up the very document that he now refuses to sign. Make of that what you will.
Yes it is very stupid to take us apart just because he and the city council do not like
some of our fire dept members.
It is hard to condense here what 3 years of fighting have done to our dept. , the city , and the community. The most gratifying thing has been the way the our community, and the surrounding communities and fire depts are supporting us. We are very fortunate to have all of these people sticking up for us.