2013-06-08 / News

Thorn Township Fire Department volunteers to vote on new chief

By Scott Rawdon

THORNVILLE – Thorn Township Fire Department volunteers are expected to select a new fire chief June 17, but the former fire chief has concerns about the voting process.

It will require a two-thirds majority vote from the department’s volunteers to hire candidate Mark Huggins as fire chief. Thorn Township Trustee Dale Factor said trustees recommended Huggins as a new part-time paid chief, and Huggins has been meeting with the department to get to know members ahead of the vote. Factor said Huggins, who is currently Heath’s fire chief, would retire from Heath if Thorn Township hires him.

Factor said Huggins’ salary, should he be hired, hasn’t been determined yet, but he said the township fiscal officer suggested a $12,000 to $18,000 range annually.

“I have nothing against this guy, but there’s a right and wrong way of doing things,” said former Thorn Township Fire Chief Duane Moore, who currently volunteers with the department. The fire chief’s position was unpaid when Moore was chief. Assistant Chief Rob Sands became interim chief.

In February 2012, trustees suspended Moore indefinitely following, among other issues, a letter from resident Ed Corns that questioned the legality of a charge account the fire department had as well as allegations of meetings between Factor, former Trustee Charles Boring and Moore regarding the account. However, Moore was back on the job as of March 23, 2012, after Perry County Prosecutor Joe Flautt advised the trustees to reinstate him.

Moore resigned Nov. 14, although he remains as a volunteer firefighter. Trustees agreed to drop an investigation of Moore as part of his resignation. Factor said trustees also agreed Oct. 17, 2012, eventually to make the chief’s position part-time paid. He said Moore, who is a full-time professional driver, wasn’t interested in taking on all the additional duties associated with a paid position. Moore said in addition to not being interested in a paid chief’s position, he has been at odds with trustees and believed he had no support from them in running the department.

Moore said he believes there are people already on staff qualified to be chief who would do the job for less money. He said the department needs a new fire truck and more part-time paid staff on the weekends and he’d rather see money spent for those needs rather than on a fire chief.

Moore also objects that only volunteers will get an opportunity to vote on the new chief. Excluding the paid staff and the fact that it may be difficult for some volunteers to be present for the vote means the decision will be made by a relatively small group.

“The volunteers are the heart and soul of our department. We couldn’t function without them,” said Factor, who thought the volunteers should have a say in who the new chief will be. Factor said the paid staff is obviously very important, but they are receiving paychecks and normally paid employees of an organization aren’t able to choose their next boss.

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