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Supervisor optimistic about future of Louisville Volunteer Fire Department

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LOUISVILLE — Following a meeting Wednesday attended by more than 130 people, where current and former firefighters and residents spoke about ongoing personnel issues within the fire department, town Supervisor Larry R. Legault said he’s optimistic the problems can be resolved.

“I think that from this meeting we can clearly see there are internal issues in the fire department and that they need to take care of those issues,” Mr. Legault said.

Among the issues touched on at the meeting were the lack of a women’s auxiliary, decreased membership in the department and the firematics drill team being told it no longer could practice on town property.

The firematics team will be discussed at next week’s town board meeting, and membership problems will be worked on over the next several months as part of an agreement signed by the town and fire department officials.

The agreement, which was signed by Chief John Sheets and First Assistant Chief Merlon Rogers, as well as town board members Roy A. Beshaw and M. Gail Schneider, contained four stipulations.

n The Louisville Town Council will not accept any personnel complaints concerning the Louisville Volunteer Fire Department for a period of three months. All personnel complaints will be referred to the fire chief or first assistant fire chief.

n The Town Council will provide some means of monthly accountability for gasoline used by the department.

n The department recognizes that it is a volunteer organization and that not all members are available to attend meetings because of work, family or other obligations. In an effort to reach out to all active members, issues involving policy changes will be put in writing and mailed to members unable to attend the meeting at which the issues were discussed. A mail-in ballot will be provided so absentee members can have a voice in policy changes.

n The department will invite all members to become involved in updating and making improvements by combining the March 1979 and May 2007 bylaws so there is one cohesive document. Once they are updated, all members will receive a copy of the bylaws and validate their understanding of the bylaws with their signature.

The agreement also notes that an independent review of progress being made within the department will be held by a yet to be determined method.

When asked what would happen should dissension in the department remain at the end of three months, Mr. Legault said he’s not sure.

“We have a new way of communicating with the fire department, through the three chiefs, two town board members and a group of citizens helping to mediate the issues,” he said. “I would hope that the group we are using to resolve these issues would make a recommendation on our next step.”

That group consists of the four people who signed the agreement, as well as Dalton P. and Nancy W. Foster and Patricia V. Pellegrino.

While the possibility has been discussed of the town withdrawing its financial support from the department, Mr. Legault said that’s not anything the town board is planning to do at this time.

“We’ve researched alternatives, but we have no intention of proceeding with those at this time,” he said.

When asked what those alternatives were, Mr. Legault replied, “Those alternatives would be on a temporary basis and include looking for fire protection from the surrounding communities.”

The town has a $116,500 contract with the department to provide fire protection services.

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