Written by Lauren Ohnesorge
Monday, 23 July 2007 06:33
Tonight’s the night several Avery County fire departments
have been waiting for- contract discussions.
Present along with fire chiefs and
the Fire Commission will be the Avery County Commissioners. The three groups hope to
settle a debate that’s been raging for over a month. The deadline to sign
contracts with the county was July 1- and the majority of Avery County fire
departments have still not signed.
Issues with the contracts include budget cuts and a clause
about equipment ownership. Many firefighters feel there will be more on the
agenda than contracts, however. The contract debate is the latest of many
conflicts some departments have had with the Commission. Earlier this year,
Commissioners caused controversy by saying that all equipment bought with
county money would be titled to the Commission and not individual departments.
Compromise had barely been reached on that issue when the Commission announced
plans to require paid firefighters to wear shirts saying “Avery County” and not
the individual departments. Most recently, Elk Park Volunteer Fire Department
officials have brought allegations against Fire Department Coordinator Butch
Sholar, claiming he posed as an Elk Park firefighter when paying a loan.
While the press was notified of the meeting last week,
firefighters say they did not get the official word a meeting would be held
until after eleven a.m. today, via radio. The meeting is now scheduled for 5
p.m. in the Commissioners’ boardroom this evening. The press has yet to be
notified of that change.
Since contract negotiations will be discussed, it is
unclear whether the press will be allowed to attend.