By Rosemary K. Otzman
A new Code of Conduct for the Fire Department was unanimously approved, without discussion, by the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees at its Jan. 14 meeting.
Absent and excused were Supervisor Johnny Vawters and Treasurer John Morgan.
Township attorney Rob Young said the 30-page document “came in” and he and the fire chief and fire officers looked it over before presenting it to the board for approval by way of Trustee Peggy Morgan, the board’s liaison to the fire department.
In March and April of 2012 the board tabled consideration of a new Standards of Conduct for the Fire Department put together and presented by a committee of Trustee Peggy Morgan, Treasurer John Morgan, and Clerk Hoffman.
Previously, in February, Fire Chief Les Powell was directed to bring the document to the board. He disagreed with some of the provisions and publicly announced he was told there would be no discussion.
All this was during a move to get rid of the longtime Fire Chief Powell, bring in a new board liaison to the fire department, and move in a new direction. Clerk Hoffman had been the board liaison.
In April Chief Powell was suspended for 30 days for locking horns with Trustee Peggy Morgan, the new fire department liaison, after she came to a fire department meeting to answer any questions about the code being presented and Powell objected to her presence.
On Sept. 10, 2012, Chief Powell, who was on the Sept. 11, 2012 agenda to have his contract extended with other employees, instead was pressured into resigning and agreed to a small retirement package. The board changed the agenda and accepted his resignation Sept. 11.
At the Jan. 14 township board meeting more than a year later when the Standards of Conduct finally were approved, a related problem in the fire department cropped up.
Don LaPorte, president of the fire fighters union local, got up to verbally attack Township Clerk Hoffman for being vocally critical of the way two recent fires were fought.
An angry LaPorte demanded an apology from Clerk Hoffman, but didn’t get one. Hoffman did agree to sit down and talk with fire fighters about the issue.
Liaison Peggy Morgan joined the fray, saying she went in to demand an apology from Hoffman and when she didn’t get one slammed his office door so hard on her way out that an alarm went off.
She said she asked Hoffman what he had been telling others and he said it was, “You lost two in a row now.” Trustee Morgan said Hoffman “almost insinuated” if Chief Powell was still here, it wouldn’t have happened.
Trustee Morgan said the houses that burned on Wear and Rawsonville roads were fully involved before fire fighters arrived and couldn’t be saved. She said one was being investigated for arson.
Trustee Bill Hamm, who is also a paid-per-call fire fighter, added that what Hoffman believes is not what the rest of the board believes. He said with the new liaison and fire chief, “I’ve never been prouder of our fire department … We are finally at the point that we are second to none.”
LaPorte said he is going to come down to talk to the board every time he hears a complaint from any of them about the department.
In other business at the Jan. 14 meeting, the board:
• Approved the second reading and adoption of the 43B Amendment to the Flood Plain Management FEMA Ordinance, which are amendments to the map;
• Approved the request of A2Mac1 at 8393 Rawsonville Road to construct a driveway around the back of the building, pending approval by the township engineer concerning setbacks, flooding, and other drainage issues. At its Dec. 12 meeting, the planning commission recommended approval of the site plan pending the items that need to be worked out with the engineer;
• Approved resolutions covering County Permits for Special Events and County Maintenance, as required every year;
• Approved getting a key and code to enter the township hall when it is closed for Building Ordinance Officer Randy Lynch. During the holiday vacation, Lynch was working on a number of blight issues at 34th District Court and had a problem getting into the township hall for documents. Lynch already has access to the police department and building department, but his office is in township hall; and
• Discussed the situation of people in the FEMA floodplain area without mortgages who might like to be informed that their property is in the floodplain because it could influence the value of their property if they decide to sell. Those with houses in the floodplain with mortgages were threatened with having to buy costly flood insurance, so the township helped them with surveys that proved that 99 out of the 100 they helped shouldn’t be in that area. Nothing was done for those without mortgages. Those wishing to see if their property is in FEMA’s floodplain can get information at township hall.
By Rosemary K. Otzman