Centre Mayor Phil Powell brought up the proposal for discussion during a recent council meeting, noting that the department now has a full slate of firefighters at 25 strong and that a full-time chief might be necessary.
In addition to overseeing the fire department on a full-time basis, Powell explained, this person could possibly perform other duties as well, including license inspections. This could possibly be the first step toward hiring several full-time firefighters, he said, which could have a significant impact on the citys ISO ratings, a major factor insurance companies used in setting their rates for fire protection.
I think a full-time fire chief would be great, but I would like to see it benefit the city more than the mayor said, said Councilman Frankie Kelly.
Councilman Harry Moon feels funds should be spent on equipment rather than a paid fire chief. And he doesnt believe the move would have a great impact on the citys ISO rating.
Centre Fireman Rodney Higgins suggested the city might be better off hiring firefighters on a part-time basis, working eight-hour shifts, Monday through Friday. Once employed, they could check city hydrants, do school programs, help out the street and sanitation department and other duties. And since they would be part-time, the city wouldnt be required to furnish retirement, insurance or other benefits, Higgins said.
Higgins also said he would like to see Centre firefighters get first shot at these positions if approved by the council.
Were all working pretty good together, I dont want to see it get messed up, said another firefighter. We need a lot more equipment than we do a full-time chief and that is my opinion.
Mayor Phil Powell said the council had no intention of hiring a chief who would do anything to damage the working relationship between the firefighters.
And if a full-time fire chief is hired, they feel Current Chief Larry Steele Sr. should be given a chance a the job.
Bobby Stinson, assistant fire chief for Cedar Bluff, said he has worked with Steele on many fires over the past few years.
He is a man that I respect very much, said Stinson. As far as myself, I support Larry Steele in everything he does in the department. Centre has got a bunch of good men. And our department has come to Centre to help with fires and we trust every one of your firefighters. I support Larry Steele. He knows what is going on in Centre. He knows Centre like the back of his hand. I would like to encourage each and every one of you to support Larry Steele as your paid chief and every firefighter in the Centre Fire Department because I have respect for each and every one of them.
The council will discuss the matter further in the near future.
On the subject of the fire department, Councilwoman Bess Yarbrough suggested some type of special recognition for Cherokee County Commissioner Earl Westbrook who passed away recently since he was also a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years.
In other business, the council:
-Heard a report from Councilwoman Rita Stubbs, chairperson, health and beautification committed, who stated that the spring banners are in to be placed on the poles holding city streetlights.
-Heard a report from Councilman Tony Wilkie, who stated that the city should begin planting trees on the property of the old Centre Airport, as required by FAA regulations and discussed in previous meetings