Promotions and $60,000 worth of items were approved for the Carrollton Fire Department during Monday night’s City Council meeting that was attended by several high-ranking fire officers who came to show their support for Chief Jimmy Bearden.
For nearly an hour, residents and firefighters shared how proud they were of the department and how they felt things had gotten out of control earlier following allegations last summer. It was said during public comments that the city needs to allow Bearden to do his job and that it was disrespectful to go over his head when Bearden has gone above and beyond to ensure the standards of the department are outstanding.
Former Carroll County Fire Chief Gary Thomas, who is now with Tanner Health System, was selected by the city to lead an audit of the Carrollton Fire Department following some public complaints and allegations from relatives and friends of fire department personnel.
Capt. Bill Messer, who has been with the department since 1991, said he started at the fire department at a time when millions of dollars were spent to purchase equipment and when needed policies were put in place. He said this is what helped the fire department get to where it is today, which he said is something to be proud of.
“A few months ago, allegations were made against the fire department,” he said. “A private company was assigned to assess those allegations and they made recommendations. ... One thing that bothered me about the whole thing, though, was (the allegation) that Chief Bearden and the command staff don’t care about those firemen. That must be defended. Chief Bearden, I’ve worked with him my whole career and he’s dedicated to this city and he’s an honorable, loyal person. He loves this city and he loves this fire department and to place that accusation out there is something that was just not right.”
Lt. Bill Lambert is a fire investigator has been with the department for more than 20 years and said he has never worried about safety with his equipment or personnel. He said fire personnel have always been taken care of and have had great support from residents and the local government.
“I can tell you, he (Bearden) is a dedicated and caring individual who wants nothing more than to see the department progress while being a good steward of the citizens’ interest and their trust,” said Lambert. “I count myself extremely fortunate to work with the most dedicated, the most capable and most professional group of men that you will find anywhere, in the state or in the country.”
Al Jones, who has served with the department for 27 years, said that when he first started, Bearden stayed up at nights to teach him. He said he feels the city was not fair when they didn’t allow the chief to deal with fire department issues himself.
“If you can’t follow the rules, you don’t need to work at the Carrollton Fire Department,” said Jones. “If I got a problem, I should be able to go to my captain and say ‘Hey, I got a problem.’ ... But when they come to y’all, that wasn’t fair to him, that wasn’t fair to the rest of those guys. Now we’ve got to start over and build from the ground back up... I mean we need the stuff, but I just don’t like the way it came about. You should have gave the man (Bearden) a chance to come to y’all, not have outsiders coming in to the department. The ones that tore it down are gone now. They did what they wanted to do to destroy.”
Al English who has been with the department for 22 years agreed with his colleagues. He said he felt Bearden is progressively guiding the department to be better daily.
City Manager Tim Grizzard presented to the council what the city is prepared to purchase for the fire department. Among the items are SCBA masks, a washer and dryer and boots -- a total cost of $60,000.
“The thing that I certainly would like to do is move forward with the promotions,” said Grizzard. “They won’t occur just due to the testing process that’s involved. They won’t occur until early next year so you won’t pay that four months out of 12 for the year and it’ll cost $44,000, and there’s enough overtime money in the budget to cover that. ... I think it’s very important to these firefighters and it gives them an opportunity to advance.”
Grizzard said air quality test results will be ready in a few days and the $4,000 lockers have been ordered to keep the fumes from reaching where the employees sleep.
The mayor and council unanimously approved.