The Pryor Times

March 13, 2013

Commissioners hear from firefighters association

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

— The Mayes County Commissioners turned the floor over to the chairman of the Mayes County Firefighters Association, Jason Miller, who produced a letter regarding the most recent meeting.

“ The following items were discussed at the meeting,” the letter said. “Discussion and action regarding the Board of County Commissioners action to redistribute fire tax funds. Discussion and action regarding recommendations to be made to the Board of County Commissioners that no further action be made regarding fire tax funds without prior recommendations from the association.”

Miller told the commissioners that the firefighters association would like to keep them in the loop.

The letter, reflecting the Fire Association meeting agenda and minutes, included information about the redistribution of fire tax funds. The commissioners decided to pay fire departments by the run at the Dec. 17, 2012, meeting, in an effort to distribute the funds more fairly. The firefighters association defined what constitutes a “run” at the Jan. 7 meeting.

“The citizens of Mayes County approved a tax to improve fire protection and to be equally distributed between each department,” the letter said.

“The commissioner’s actions have destroyed bonds built between the firefighters of Mayes County that have been formed since the sales tax was approved. Animosity between departments is greater now than it was prior to the adoption of the fire tax. The number one key to exceptional fire protection throughout the county is cooperation and trust between the departments,” it said.

The letter claimed the majority of firefighters in Mayes County do not support the commissioners action to redistribute the fire tax funds. The letter showed that a vote was taken at the meeting, to determine support of the redistribution, showing two in favor and nine opposed.

“Some remarks made by the commissioners that have been published in the local media are hurtful to the public trust of firefighters and discouraging to volunteer firefighters throughout the county,” it said. The letter said recruitment of volunteer firefighters is at an all-time low. “Elected officials should be doing everything in their power to encourage volunteerism instead of demonizing current volunteers.

“The actions by the county commissioners have not and will not fix any problems. Rumors that circulated before this decision involved mishandling of county funds and misuse of fire department equipment. The recent action to redistribute tax funds taken by the commissioners does absolutely nothing to remedy either of these allegations or any other problems.”

The firefighters association says the $3,000 allotted per month will barely pay many department’s payments, including utilities.

“In closing, it is the intention of the Mayes County Firefighters Association to improve fire protection in Mayes County. The association has elected new officials and is in the process of fixing problems with the organization that will ensure that it accomplishes the purpose of representing all members equally and justly.”

The letter concluded by saying the association does not wish to fight with the county commissioners or anyone else. It requests that the commissioners reconsider their decision to redistribute fire tax money.

The commissioners did not discuss the contents of the letter.

“We’ll make sure that our attorney gets a copy of this letter,” said District 1 Commissioner Alva Martin.

No formal action was taken.

Undersheriff Gary Shrum discussed the Spavinaw Police Department’s dispatch agreement.

“This was brought to my attention recently. Spavinaw is not paying the $300 per month outlined in their policy. I understand it was a verbal agreement,” said Shrum.

He requested the county attorney draft a letter to correct the situation.

A motion was made, and approved, requesting the attorney’s attention to the problem.

The commissioners and Bill Dinsmore from Pryor Waste & Recycling discussed the county cleanup days, April 20-21 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher every year to keep things up to standard. Everything will be disposed of legally and properly,” he said.

“This is a good deal, you’re one of the only counties doing it,” he said.

The commissioners discussed including  April 19 as well or changing the dates entirely so as to not be on the same weekend as the city’s clean up day. When it came to a vote, however, no changes were made.

Members of the Mayes County Conservation Board made a presentation.

“The purpose of this presentation is to make sure that the commissioners are acquainted with the Mayes County Conservation District and have a basic knowledge of what we do and the impact we are having in the community,” Conservationist Larry Nenstil said. “Through the NCRS, we have processed and ranked 77 EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) applications. Of these, 22 have been approved and contracts obligating $191,430 for the development of conservation practices.”

He said the office developed conservation plans for new producers covering 4,000 acres of county land.

“Over the past five years, the district has brought into the county $1,600,000 of state and federal money for various programs,” he said.

This money goes to local contractors who are hired to build the conservation practices that include developing water wells, ponds and watering facilities.

The purpose of the Conservation Board includes improving water, soil and air quality as well as plant, animal and human health.

“So far this year we have $217,000 preapproved for producers to use in the ongoing effort to further the conservation effort in this county,” he said.