Baldwin Village Council Contemplates Appointing New Fire Chief, Community Voices Concern

 

A community is standing behind its fire chief.

The Baldwin Village Council is considering a change, one that may mean the entire department packs up and leaves.

Topping the agenda for village councilors: a possible re-appointment of their fire chief and fire secretary.

The village has an ordinance to vote on their fire chief and fire secretary every year.

The meeting and ordinance sparks controversy throughout Lake County.

“It’s almost like salt on open wounds,” said one fire fighter during Tuesday night’s public comment. “It’s ridiculous.”

Concerned and angry voices rose inside Baldwin Village hall.

Many were fire fighters, including Martin Walker, Baldwin Fire Chief.

“Tonight, what they are looking at is re-appointing a new chief,” Walker said before the meeting. “I’m really not sure why. I have not been brought up to speed.”

Both Village President James Truxton and Chief Walker agree that — without better funding — the department could be forced to close.

The entire department voiced their opinions Tuesday night.

“The contract expires with Pleasant Plains at the end of this year, so the finances are a little bit tight but they did promise to pay our fire fighters and there is not enough money to cover that, so I keep asking these questions and now they are looking if, they feel this is easier this way to eliminate somebody being able to ask questions but…I don’t know,” Walker said.

“[Truxton] promised us a contract on July 8, he promised us a contract and one week to overview for Pleasant Plains Township to look at,” said Kevin Braddy, chair of the Pleasant Plains Township Fire Contract Committee. “Here we are, the end of August, and we still haven’t received a contract yet from the Village of Baldwin.”

Braddy said if it comes down to losing their current chief, the rest of the fire fighters will follow.

“Pleasant Plains Township was coming up on contract for fire protection service for their township. Doing due diligence for their township, we developed a fire contract committee to look into whether or not we are getting the best bang for our buck at Baldwin Fire Department or if another fire department could offer us the same service or better service,” Braddy said. “As the chairman, with the approval of the rest of the committee members for the fire contract committee, I made the recommendation to the board to start pursuing looking into founding our own fire department.”

It’s an idea supported by Pleasant Plains Township.

“Pleasant Plains is definitely looking at putting in our own fire department in the near future,” said Tammy Ghent, Pleasant Plains Township Supervisor. “If something happens here, we’ll definitely be pursuing other avenues with the fire department and Mr. Walker.”

“I support Marty 100% of the way,” said Joshua Miller during public comment, a former cadet with Baldwin Fire Department. “I think he’s done an excellent job as fire chief.”

“I’m pretty sure everybody on the department stands behind Marty also,” said Lt. Ken Warren.

The chief mentioned a possible conflict of interest with another board member, who serves on the Webber Township Fire Department.

“By the way this vote goes tonight, she would be financially benefitting by the increase in revenue from more fire calls so I think that’s a conflict of interest and she should recluse herself,” Walker said.

“It’s absolutely the village council’s legal right to appoint whoever it wants for a fire chief,” Truxton said. “There’s always two sides of the story. The other side seems to think that there is some big issues and it’s all about getting rid of the current fire chief, which he may or may not be re-appointed.”

After a closed session addressing written opinion with their attorney, they decided to table it until next time.

“A couple questions were raised this evening about some language and a potential conflict of interest that our attorney wasn’t prepared to address and so we tabled motion to appoint chief and department secretary until our September 11 meeting,” Truxton said. “The people just need to realize that the village council has been elected to do a job, and it’s going to do its job. Sometimes that’s not popular.”

“I’m hoping that it’ll come, that it’ll work out,” Walker said. “I’m still willing to work with the council but there’s five of them. We need three votes.”