Black Oak Council votes to merge fire department

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Monday night's Black Oak council meeting lasted only a few minutes but discussions among visitors, before and after the session, lasted more than an hour.

After a 20-minute delay, Black Oak Mayor Norman Williams called the Nov. 19 meeting to order. The council wasted no time in getting down to business and voted 3-1 for the Black Oak Fire Department to merge with the Monette Fire Department.

"Sometimes you just have to go together to get a job done," Alderman Johnny Williams said. "We need to merge with Monette. We have to do something to protect the people."

Council members Johnny Williams, Peggy Williams and Randy Hutchison voted for the merge and Cotton Fisher voted against it. Alderman and Fire Chief Kenny Vaughn was not present.

"Did you even get a contract to review with Monette?" asked Fisher.

"Not until I got a vote from the council for the merge," Mayor Williams said.

Fisher said, "I thought you would have been wiser than this. You don't even know what you have surrendered when you agreed to merge with a contract to follow."

After the vote concerning the Black Oak Fire Department, the meeting was adjourned and the council left. Mayor Williams remained for several minutes before leaving also.

District Fire Chief Dennis Payne, of Marmaduke, was among the 20 people present to discuss the Fire Department situation and encourage city officials to work to improve the department before making the final merge decision.

"You don't even have your Fire Chief here tonight, and yet you voted to merge without discussing it," Payne said. "Leadership is everything, and people will follow someone who is a leader and has their safety in mind. It looks like you need a new fire chief."

"You (Mayor Williams) are giving everything away," Fisher said. "You don't care what the people in Black Oak want. We need new city officials and a new fire chief. Our next city election is in 2008. I am willing to pay for anyone's filing fees who wants to run."

Eddie Spencer and Kevin Austin said they wished to run for office.

Seven men expressed the desire to serve as volunteer firemen. These included Spencer, Austin, Ernie Coker, Roy Barber, Butch Holmes, John Holmes, and Brian Peaster. Mrs. Peaster spoke on behalf of her husband Brian, as he was unable to attend the meeting. Four of the men said they had volunteered before but had never been called.

"You (Mayor Williams) said there was over $53,000 in your Fire Department Fund," Fire Chief Payne said. "How much of that is contributed by the city, or by fundraisers or grants?"

Mayor Williams responded, "None, it is our Act 833 money."

"It is against the law to use your Act 833 turn-back money as the sole source of revenue for your Fire Department," Payne said.

Councilman Johnny Williams returned to the meeting after he left.

"Norman you don't have to listen to these guys, they are a joke," Johnny Williams said.

"We don't need to give all our money to Monette," Fisher said.

"It is not a problem with money," Mayor Williams said. "We don't have the people or equipment."

Alderman Peggy Williams returned to city hall also.

"All Monette wants is our future Act 833 money," Peggy Williams said. "They don't want the $53,000 that we have now."

"Cotton, you don't ever volunteer for nothing around here," Johnny Williams said. "All you do is stir things up. You don't understand what is going on here. We have to do something to insure we have fire coverage. Monette has helped us in the past and they are the ones we should work with.

"These people do not need to listen to you," Johnny Williams said. "We have already voted. Cotton is just using these guys."

"And what did ya'll do?" Fisher said. "You'll won't even talk about this. You just run. This was a done deal long before you ever voted. This town needs a new mayor and a new board. Norman (Williams) won't fire Kenny (Vaughn) and Kenny won't resign."

"Sounds like your fire chief just wants to collect his check or wear a white hat," Chief Payne said.

"Chief (Payne) you have enlightened people here tonight about what our fire department could do without merging," Fisher said.

"I have 30 years of experience, but am sorry I came here tonight," Payne said. "With small town politics it seems that 85-90 percent of the community are satisfied with what goes on in a town because they don't know. Five percent don't care, and the other five percent just want to stir things up. The public should attend the meetings and see what goes on."

The visitors remained at the city hall building talking until after 7:30, with no city officials present. Later in the evening, after the meeting room was empty, a city official returned to secure the building.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Dec. 17 beginning at 6 p.m. at city hall.

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