By Sue Moore
“Nobody is trying to take the chief’s hat away,” said Bill Adams, a member of the Fire Authority’s Human Resources committee and Vicksburg village president. Speaking with conviction, Adams said the fire commissioner job is purely voluntary as an advisor to Fire Chief Tracy McMillan.
Adams said Rick Nason, a Schoolcraft Township resident and battalion chief in the Portage Fire Department has accepted the job of fire commissioner in an effort to prioritize the 49 steps the consultants felt were needed to improve the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority’s operations.
“This is the kind of advice the chief needs. Nason is helping to get the right stuff done. We believe we are working together to meet the needs of everyone. The fire commissioner will serve pro bono at the pleasure of the board with an open ended contract. Our public safety performance is falling short of National standards and we want to be the ‘best of the best’ so we are reaching out for his expertise to advise the chief,” Adams stated. “Vicksburg Village has begun to cross train its police officers to be first responders. Saving lives is critical. The report said it takes on average, nine minutes for our fire personnel to get there when called. That’s too long if a person is in cardiac arrest. We are sorting out which of the 49 items that are critical and working on those with the help of Nason, Jim Mallery, Duke Cutshaw, and Chief McMillan, who are all members of the advisory board.”
Nason thanked the board for the opportunity to serve as the fire commissioner. “I want to create a vision with goals that we can all buy into and alleviate the stuff going on today.”
Chief McMillan thanked Nason and said he fully supports and applauds his efforts.
Two people in the audience spoke of their frustration with the Authority board. Ron Ferrucci said what he reads in the newspaper sounds like we have no chief and the advisory committee is running the department. “But I know the chief is there doing his job. It’s not about skills but about the management of the authority. I welcome Nason being here as there is a need to get some distance from the board. It would be nice for the firefighters to have some appreciation.”
Alicia Crandall said the board doesn’t understand what’s going on with the fire department. “There is so much animosity with the fire people. They love what they do, but the board is harming them and running them out. The board doesn’t listen. Let Tracy do his job,” she countered.
Randy Smith, board chair, replied to Crandall that the board of the Authority is trying to build the very management structure “you are asking for.” The Human Resources committee is not micro managing as Crandall accused them of doing.
Denny Olson spoke about his reasons for running for Vicksburg Village president. “I don’t like the actions the board has taken against the chief. Ken Schippers, the former village manager recommended that I should get on the village council and begin the discussion about Vicksburg disbanding the authority.”
McMillan told the board that he was working on a retention and recruitment program but the board members asked for time to review the proposal, since they had only received it when they sat down for the meeting. He also updated the activities of the county’s consolidated dispatch center which is requesting a possible grant for new equipment that would enhance how the dispatching towers work. He said the authority would be participating in the information gathering and needs assessment. After the needs assessment is completed they would make the final decision to commit to participating in the grant application and would have a better understanding of what the fire departments financial commitment would be.