Committee cites recruiting, training, inspections, maintenance, education in addition to other duties

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Does the City of Burns need a full-time fire chief or can it be a part-time position?

City Councilor Craig LaFollette said that was the first question the fire chief search committee faced at their inaugural meeting on Monday, April 26.

LaFollette, the committee facilitator, told the council that he went into the meeting thinking the position should be part-time, but by the end of the meeting he had changed his mind. “It depends on what kind of service this council wants to provide for the citizens,” LaFollette said. “There are a lot of things the fire chief does that we don’t know about.”

LaFollette said the committee, made up of Kenton Dick of the Burns Paiute Tribe, Phil Kessinger with the Rural Fire District, John Petty, Jeff Rose and Robert Beers of the Burns Fire Department, Hines Fire Chief Bob Spence, Burns resident Vianney Hartvisen, pointed out the fire chief position includes recruiting, training, inspections, maintenance, education and many other duties. A part-time position would also mean more liabilities and a higher insurance rating for the city.

LaFollette stated that one of the committee members told him, “If we don’t have any fires, that’s a good fire department. The full-time job is fire prevention.”

He added that there was an overwhelming consensus of the committee the position should be full-time.

At their next meeting on May 4, the committee was expected to look at the budget and develop a job description.

Interim Fire Chief Stuart Yekel reported there were two former volunteer firefighters who had filled out applications to come back on with the department, and he said he thought there might be an additional two applications in a few days.

Becky Cunningham, representing Rimrock Recycling, told the council the recycling center has been open two days a week since Jan. 1, and had logged 788 volunteer hours in the first three months of operation.

She said when the center operated as 4R Recycling, they were able to put together 50 bales of cardboard each month, and they would like to get to that level again. What helped 4R was the fact they had bins placed around town for merchants to place their cardboard in for pick-up. “More than 30 businesses signed petitions to do that again,” Cunningham said. “We’d like to offer that.”

Mayor Len Vohs said the franchise agreement the city has with C&B Sanitary prohibits another entity from picking up, but they were checking to see if there was a way they could make it work.

Cunningham added that they were mandated by the county court to have discussions with C&B, but have yet to come to an agreement. “C&B said, ‘No, you can’t pick up, and we won’t either.’ They do have bins at the transfer station, but the merchants have said they can’t get away to take it up to C&B,” Cunningham said.

The council agreed to keep working toward a solution.

Police Chief Randy Cook reported that they are looking into the abuse of a legal substance called K2 Incense that is sold locally.

Cook said the substance, when smoked, reportedly gives the user a marijuana-like high. “But there is a severe downside, such as the after-effects,” Cook said.

Cook said there is a lot of research being done on K2 Incense, and some cities around the country have banned it from being sold.

Cook also reminded the council that May 9-15 is National Police Officers Remembrance Week, and the officers would be honoring fellow officers who had fallen while in service.

In other business:
• the council directed City Manager Don Munkers to draft a letter to the owners of the Silver Spur Motel informing them of issues at hand, and gave them a May 12 deadline to respond;

• the council approved the contracts with the Police Department and Public Works Department as presented;

• City Manager Munkers reported he had gone through the city ordinance regarding standing committees and tried to “clean it up.” He provided the council with a draft for them to review.

Munkers also said they are looking into grant possibilities for the fire department.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, at city hall.

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