Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fire chief search continues slow burn

February 16, 2006

During Monday's Eudora City Council meeting, city firefighters filled the front rows of the council chamber in a show of solidarity as the council again took up the prolonged search for a fire chief.

Moments later, when Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle announced he was not going to make an appointment for a fire chief for at least another two months, the group of firefighters walked out.

"We'll shelve this for two months and hopefully we'll have some apply," Pyle said.

The discussion began as Pyle read from a city government handbook published by The Kansas League of Municipalities.

According to the book, mayors should not make temporary appointments, such as deputy Fire Chief Mike Underwood now holds.

Furthermore, Pyle said he should have remade the appointment of Colorado fire chief Kevin Ganoe every month since the appointment originally failed in December.

"That's where we stand right now, Pyle said.

Pyle has been stolid on his choice of Ganoe since the Dec.1 meeting.

"I made an appointment of a man that is well qualified with 30 years experience," Pyle said. "He had everything Eudora needs."

Pyle recounted how Ganoe first arrived to town and made it a point to meet citizens and visit downtown businesses.

He even approached Pyle's Meat Company to talk about the job, without realizing who the mayor was, Pyle said.

Pyle said Ganoe praised the personnel, equipment and station.

"He said 'All I want to do is be your fire chief and make it better,'" Pyle said.

Ganoe later found out that Pyle was the mayor. At that point, he turned red, Pyle said.

"I appointed him in good faith. I know of nothing wrong with this man," Pyle said. "He has a good record, and he's been gainfully employed since he was 19- or 20-years-old with a fire department."

Ganoe's lack of experience as an official fire chief might have hurt his chances in the last round.

The last council-approved job description for the position requires the applicant to have at least three years experience at a lieutenant level or above.

Even the required experience could be problematic, Pyle said.

An applicant could have the leadership experience needed, but it might be with a department from a town with only 200 people, he said.

In such a case, the applicant might have only one structure fire in his career, Pyle said.

"I don't want that for my town. I don't want that for your town," Pyle said.

The last call for applicants garnered the city only two applications.

One came from Idaho and the other from Alabama, Pyle said.

"Whenever you have something like this, only one person applies and comes from Idaho, I don't think the city should bring him in and interview him," Pyle said.

Pyle said he wondered if the city's reputation has gotten so bad with the fire chief debacle that it's hard to get applications from further than a 200-mile radius.

"There's a problem," Pyle said.

City administrator Cheryl Beatty recommended that the council table the issue and post the position at a later date.

Before conversation ended, Councilmember Bill Whitten asked about the Idaho applicant.

"I certainly don't want to bring in someone from Idaho because he's the only one we've got," Pyle said. "There's no competition, Bill. There's no competition."

"I just wanted someone who's qualified, mayor. I just want someone who is qualified," Whitten said.

Apparently Pyle shared the sentiment. He offered this to the firefighters before they left and the council tabled the issue for two months.

"I appreciate your support and believe we'll try to get the best possible chief we can get for you," Pyle said.

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