Final payment made for firehouse construction
April 23, 2020
POMEROY-The last payment of $94,176.33 to Wellens Farwell was made for the construction of the new fire station, and the work has been finished. Deedee Weymouth, Fire District Secretary, added that the washer and dryer are now in place and ready to be used for any decontamination needs.
The search for a new Fire Chief is ongoing with new advertisements being placed with outlying newspapers, and applications accepted through May 1, 2020. Interviews conducted during a non-publicized special meeting on Saturday March 28, did not produce a candidate with the required district qualification criteria. The job description was re-written and the salary offered increased for the new advertisements. Fire District Commissioner Terry John reported that five to six applications have been received so far from the revised advertisement, and that they are coming from all over the U.S.
It was reported that as of April 14, Garfield County has tested 18 individuals for COVID-19, with 18 negative results. Weymouth stated that the Fire District has adequate personal protection equipment (PPE), and has requested more hand sanitizer from the government supplies.
Zach Hyer, Fire District employee who has been helping to filling in at the fire station on weekdays, will be ending his temporary position April 24, 2020, when he returns to his full-time job. An offer has been made to Kyson Fruh to take his place, beginning May 1, 2020, and continuing through the summer until September 1, 2020. The extra help is needed during the absence of a full-time Fire Chief. Fruh will be offered the same schedule and wages as was received by Hyer. Because of the uncertainty of how long they will actually need a fill-in, the commissioners will re-evaluate the position September 1, 2020. Commissioner Aaron Stallcop suggested that by then the destiny of the Garfield County Hospital District may be more clear, which could have a bearing on the need for more personnel.
Two issues arose from the Joe Dixon house fire; 1) dysfunctional fire hydrant and 2) lack of equipment to assist during a fire. Interim Fire Chief, Kyle Pearson, stated the fire hydrant near the corner of Fourteenth St. and Columbia St. had a crack in it, allowing water to spray in all directions “like a geyser.” This prevented hose pressure needed to extinguish the fire.
In addition, the fire district had to request assistance from the City to use a backhoe to topple the chimney, disperse coals, and fill in the basement, where the fire had travelled. Pearson said the chimney was unsafe to leave it standing, and manage hot spots to let things cool down.
Pearson discuss fire hydrant maintenance with City officials to prevent disfunction during future emergency situations. Due to a reduced work schedule, no inspections of the fire hydrants made since last summer. The Fire District will make routine checks of the fire hydrants as well. Pearson will also include a discuss the $182.50 bill (36.45 per hour) for the cost of the backhoe operator.
An update was given by Pearson to the commissioners regarding the recent actions taken by Garfield County Commissioner Justin Dixon in making an official complaint against the Fire District for holding an unpublicized special meeting for the purpose of conducting interviews for the Fire Chief position. Dixon reported the Public Meetings Act violation to Sheriff Drew Hyer, and Emergency Management Director, John Hirsch. He claimed the meeting was not publicized, a direct violation of RCW 42.30 which defines specific obligations to announce a public meeting in a timely manner; and second, disobeying the Governor’s stay-at-home order, which also included modifications to the public meeting act made on March 24, 2020, prohibiting all face-to-face public meetings by governmental entities, but were instruct to instead, meet through teleconference. Both Hyer and Hirsch were informed that the meeting was being supervised by Dr. Glenn Hauser, and all precautions had been taken to assure “social distancing requirements.” The meeting was allowed to continue by Hyer and Hirsch.
Pearson assured the Fire District commissioners that Dixon had acted on his own behalf, and Commissioners Wynne McCabe and Bob Johnson had no knowledge of the actions taken until the following Monday, when they received Pearson’s letter lodging a complaint. He admitted that they did not follow protocol by advertising the meeting to the public in a timely manner, but claimed that it was not intentional.
He further contends they abided by all requirements for public meetings during the “stay-at-home” orders, by the precautions taken. County Prosecutor, Matt Newberg, had informed him that because the incident was reported to law enforcement, there would have to be a follow-up investigation. Pearson has been contacted by Deputy Adam Dispenza twice as part of the investigation. He is now awaiting a report or letter from Newberg stating how the matter will be resolved.
Stallcop suggested a change to the meeting hour from 5 p.m to 6 p.m. due to more spring and summertime daylight hours. The commissioners agreed to make the change through September, 2020, and Weymouth will make the legal announcement of the change.
The next meeting of the Garfield County Fire District will be May 12, 2020, at 6 p.m., held at the Fire District office.