Nonresident member is Fire District No. 11 board issue

by Clarke Davis

Acquiring someone to conduct a financial audit and seating a nonresident on the board was the primary business before the Jefferson County Fire District 11 board April 12.

John Franco, a Nortonville resident who is employed in Valley Falls, has been seated at the board’s table in recent months, put there by Fire Chief John Gordon to represent the firefighters. But objections have been raised because of his residency.

Fire District 11 is a taxing entity and board members approve the budget and mill levy, and spend the money. At least two board members — Chairman Butch Wynkoop and Mary Jane Burns — believe a voting member should be a resident of the district to do that.

Gordon has said it has been difficult to find a firefighter who will serve and Franco is willing. He said there might be one or two who would serve but they will not serve with one of the members now on the board.

The district bylaws make it pretty clear a board member has to live in the district, but there is wiggle room if one gets technical.

The Jefferson County Commissioners are given the final authority in their appointment and the bylaws state that four of the members must represent the city, the township, the EMS, and the fire department.

A fifth member shall be at large, “which means that the member is a resident of the District . . .” One would assume that quoted statement would apply to all the members, but it’s only written the paragraph dealing with the at large member.

The board’s attorney, Rick Johnson, attended the meeting and approached the matter less on legal technicalities than an appeal to accept help when it’s offered.

“You have someone who is willing to volunteer, why not accept their help? It’s just seems like common sense,” Johnson said.

The lawyer equated the situation to the old bucket brigade when people rushed in from everywhere to put out a fire.

“Why would you not want someone’s help? Don’t we want people to come from everywhere?” Johnson asked.

Johnson later said he went into the meeting misunderstanding the issue. He thought there was a problem with the person serving on the fire department or EMS instead of the board. The board members have never objected to Franco volunteering his services to the department except to express concern about his traveling from Nortonville.

Franco assured them that he might exceed the speed limit, but that he doesn’t drive “like a bat out of hell.”

There was also a reference to a former board member going back more than 10 years who served on the board but lived in Rock Creek Township.

Burns said she had called the state Fire Marshal’s office to learn that a nonresident should not be on the board. She and Wynkoop also visited the county commissioners and they, too, were opposed.

However, Burns did relent somewhat and said she might be more in favor if Franco was approved by all the firefighters and not just handpicked by a few.

Board member Bill Klenklen will support Franco’s being seated on the board but it is not known if Wynkoop will change his mind. The other board member, Mark Boyce, is leaving the board and will be replaced by a new representative from the city after April 20. Todd Harrington, a newly elected council member, attended the meeting.

The question of having a CPA-conducted audit was resolved, but which firm to use is still in question.

The chairman appointed Burns and Gordon to investigate two or three firms to see who can do the audit and in a timely manner.

Paul Heinen & Associates was mentioned as the primary candidate since it has a CPA on staff, but Burns was concerned about how soon they might be able to do it.

“Shop at home,” was Johnson’s advice.

Both city representative Mark Boyce and township board representative Gary Bernasek vouched that their respective governing bodies wanted a CPA audit.

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Posted by on Apr 25 2011. Filed under Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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