THORNVILLE – Thorn Township Fire Department Chief Cheyenne Wells resigned his position Feb. 11 following a contentious trustees meeting that night.
“I didn’t not resign because I didn’t want or like the job,” Wells said. “Ask any firefighter, it is the greatest job in the world. I did so because I’ve seen no change to (the trustees’) decisions in the operations of the department. The stress on myself and my family is not worth it.”
Deputy Chief Jeremy Weekly is acting fire chief.
In July 2014, Thorn Township Fire Department volunteers voted 12 to 2 to hire Wells of the Jackson Township Division of Fire near Grove City as the department’s part-time chief. Wells also worked part-time for the Hebron Fire Department. He retained his job with the Jackson Township Division of Fire; Wells said the Thorn Township Fire Department has had 15 chiefs in 25 years.
“Turnover in your chief is not good,” Wells said. “There’s no consistent leadership. You have to have somebody progressive to run the department and give them the tools to run it.”
Fire department personnel and trustees have disagreed over staffing the department with part-time paid staff on weekends and trustees have disagreed with Wells over demoting department Captain Michael Toliver over what fire department personnel has described as “an insurance stipulation.” Trustees placed Wells on probation for not demoting Toliver.
“To resolve the issues would be very simple,” Wells said. “Let the fire chief run the department. That is what I was hired to do and they continued to want to micromanage myself and the department.
“Staffing on the weekends is not that hard. Financially the township has the funds to do so with tax revenue and EMS billing,” Wells continued. “They would not make any motion or discuss my probation even though it was proven that they violated the Sunshine Law, also violating the Ohio Revised Code in their demands to demote Capt. Tolliver.”
Wells said he believes the trustees oppose staffing the weekends with paid personnel because the trustees believe the township can’t afford it and they worry doing so will run off the volunteers. He said having three paid staff 24/7 would not replace the volunteers; more personnel than that is necessary. “You’ve got to have the volunteers,” Wells said.
Trustee Robert Coleman said trustees will schedule a meeting on a date to be decided with fire department personnel to address their concerns. “They did have a lot of questions,” he said, and trustees will work on finding answers.
Trustee David Lyle said due to inclement weather trustees have not had an opportunity to discuss Wells’ resignation since the Feb. 11 meeting. He said the trustees would withhold any comment regarding it until they’ve discussed the resignation among themselves.