- Special Sections
- Public Notices
At his first council meeting as Cannelton's mayor, Morris "Smokey" Graves faced opposition to his decision to eliminate two positions from that city's fire department. The meeting seemed more like a one-man show than democracy when the mayor announced that assistant- and deputy-chief positions, held by Charlie Little and Johnny Young respectively, were being eliminated to streamline the fire department.
We don't disagree the mayor has the authority to eliminate the positions, but we believe the near-unanimous sentiments of the town's firefighters, among the most dedicated volunteers in the any community, should have trumped the mayor's effort to save a modest amount of money.
Firefighters, citizens and even council members all tried to understand why their mayor decided to act alone in this measure. Before coming to this conclusion, did he find out the reasoning why the department had these positions in addition to the ranks of chief and four captains?
Many volunteer firefighters work outside the department, making it difficult for all of them to respond to every fire. With the assistant- and deputy-chief positions, someone was there to do necessary and important tasks and take charge, if needed, since Chief Jerry Harris works outside the city in a 50-to-60-hours-a-week job.
Who would provide that second tier of leadership now with only four captains, two of whom have since quit?
We don't know if the same decision would have been made if Graves had made more of an effort to talk to the council, firefighters and the public before making the decision, but we know that as an elected official, he is supposed to do what is in the best interest of the city without jeopardizing the safety of residents. Whether or not this choice will affect the department is yet to be seen, but we hope it doesn't to the point of putting anyone or anything in danger.
In addition, we urge the mayor to keep any money saved from eliminating these positions in the fire department's budget. Graves said at the meeting ending the positions resulted in $1,200 in savings and he didn't know if it was going to stay in the department or not. With $10,500 cut from its budget by previous leaders, the $5,500 in fundraisers firefighters conduct make up only half of what was cut out.
Don't take away money the department could use to improve the devices they use to make sure residents are safe.
Some members even donate their pay back to the department to help with expenses. Each firefighter makes $800 a year* with $200 for clothing and fuel. Captains make $400 more than that while the chief earns $1,475 and the assistant- and deputy-chief positions make $2,075. Last year, at the request of Harris, his chief's pay was deducted and split between the second-level chiefs to compensate them for the added duties.
Graves said he could use the $1,200 to build more sidewalks. But it's not his money to spend. It's Harris', and he "delegated" it to the deputy and assistant chief along with some duties he's unable to perform due to his work location and schedule.
Even though it may have been in the best interest for the city in the mayor's view, he should have conferred with members of the council, and more importantly, the public before eliminating the positions. In the future, we hope the mayor takes note of this situation before acting on his own and that Cannelton's citizens stay involved with their city to make sure what's being done is in their best interest.
Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.
Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at email@example.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.
*EDITOR'S NOTE: When originally published, this editorial erroneously stated salaries and other payments to Cannelton's volunteer firefighters as monthly amounts. All of the pay figures contained herein are annual amounts.