Janesville50.7°

Questions remain about Brodhead-fire-chief post

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GINA R. HEINE
November 5, 2011
— Brodhead city officials seem to agree a full-time employee is needed to run the fire department, but they don’t want to call that person the chief, Mayor Doug Pinnow said.

“That’s where it (the discussion) ended,” he said.


Progress on deciding the future of the department’s leadership has been slow since July, when the council voted to not renew the contract of former Fire Chief Jay Bohan. While city officials discuss whether a full-time chief is needed, other questions remain about the city’s relationship with the rural townships the department serves.


Wayne Gibson, who previously served as an assistant fire chief, is leading the department as interim chief on a part-time basis. He has said he has no intention of becoming the permanent chief.


Gibson could not be reached for comment.


Bohan was named the city’s first full-time chief in 2008. When officials began discussing renewing his contract last year, some firefighters raised concerns about his performance. Two committees last year unanimously recommended against keeping Bohan, but the city council renewed his contract for one year.


Since July, city officials have discussed whether the department needs a full-time chief again.


“Somebody needs to be in charge,” Pinnow said. “I would think it should be a chief.”


Officials agreed years ago a full-time chief was needed, he said, because the job has too much work for a part-time person.


The council next meets Monday, Nov. 14, but Pinnow said he’s hoping a recommendation first comes from the fire oversight committee, which meets Thursday, Nov. 10.


Council member Phil Rundle, who is chairman of the fire oversight committee, did not respond to multiple phone messages from The Gazette seeking comment.


The only other committee member The Gazette reached was Michael Moore, who is the town of Avon chairman and represents the Brodhead Rural Fire Association on the committee.


The rural association represents the towns covered by the fire department outside of the city. Town officials from Avon, Spring Valley and Magnolia in Rock County and Decatur and Spring Grove in Green County are in the association.


The city and the association have an intergovernmental agreement through the end of 2011 that both sides have agreed not to renew. The agreement pertains only to the payment of the chief—the rural association pays 40 percent of the salary while the city pays the rest.


If the rural association is going to continue paying for personnel, it wants a voting voice, Moore said.


“We pay 40 percent, we should get 40 percent vote,” he said.


With six city council members and four officials from the rural association board, each person could have a 10 percent vote, he said.


“That’s all we wanted. We wanted a vote as to what transpired with the fire chief,” he said.


The rural association also owns five vehicles that remain at the station, and it pays about $5,000 for maintenance, he said.


Creating a fire district similar to Orfordville’s could be a solution, he said, but the association also is OK with remaining as is, if it got voting powers.


Moore expressed frustrations because the city hasn’t asked for input from the association about how to handle the chief position.


But Pinnow said before the city can discuss a new contract with the association, it must decide what type of chief to hire.


“We’ve got to make a decision one way or another,” Pinnow said.



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