Archive for Thursday, April 17, 2003

Trail blazed for full-time fire chief

April 17, 2003

Although it has been the subject of heated debate in the past, the Eudora City Council had no trouble deciding Monday night that this was the time to create a full-time fire chief position.

Although the Council came to a consensus, Mayor Ron Conner said the city should wait until the next meeting to officially give the position to part-time volunteer chief Spencer McCabe. Conner said considering the amount of work McCabe did, "volunteer" should be in quotation marks.

McCabe said having a full-time fire chief would only do good for the city.

The mayor said creating a full-time chief position would be the first step in gradually creating a full-time force. Because city appointments generally take effect in July, Conner said the city could create a short-term appointment until then.

For the past two years, the city has had the budget authority to make the position full time.

"I think we're at the point where we need to take this step," Conner said.

Council member Dan Gregg said getting a full-time chief had been his goal since he first ran for office four years ago, and he was glad to see it finally happening.

"I feel the respect toward the fire department from the community has increased under (McCabe's) leadership," Gregg said.

The Council agreed to forego a formal search and instead conduct an informal interview Tuesday and hammer out a salary with McCabe before the next meeting. City Administrator Mike Yanez said area fire chiefs in city's Eudora's size earned about $35,000 a year.

Because McCabe would also run daytime medical calls, Conner wanted to dispel rumors that Eudora would start its own ambulance service.

"That's not our intent," Conner said. "I think we've got to grow a lot before we can go the ambulance service."

Council member Rex Burkhardt said he could envision Eudora having an ambulance "satellite" station like the one in Baldwin City someday.

Newly-inducted Council member Scott Hopson and his father, Rick Hopson, underscored the importance firefighters and first-responders played by telling the Council they attributed Rick survival of a heart attack to the quick arrival of Eudora's first responders.

"We can't wait for Lawrence to come," Scott Hopson said. "If it wasn't for the EMS in Eudora, we probably wouldn't have my dad here today."

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