Fire board fires Frick as controversy flares.

September 29, 2017

Walkerville firefighters at the scene of a fire. OCP file photo.

Fire board fires Frick as controversy flares.

#OceanaCountyNews

#WalkervilleFireandRescue

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

WALKERVILLE — After months of battling over budget issues, the Walkerville Area Joint Fire and Rescue Authority eliminated the administrator position, which was held by long-time Fire Chief Jerry Frick, with a split vote during a meeting Wednesday evening.

“As of tonight September 27, the fire board has just eliminated the position of the fire administrator. So, what does this mean for the department? At this time, Jerry Frick is no longer an employee of the department and (Fire Chief) Greg Frick will not be taking his place. Responsibilities will fall on Allen Purdy, our deputy fire chief,” states the Walkerville Area Fire Rescue’s Facebook page.

Jerry Frick at a fire authority meeting last February.
OCP file photo.

The fire department is operated by the fire authority, which includes four different municipalities — Leavitt, Colfax and Elbridge townships and the Village of Walkerville. Members of the fire authority board include two members of each incorporating unit.

Jerry Frick, who had been the fire chief for 35 years and has been on the department for over 50 years, has been the target of accusations by officials regarding the budget. However, the firefighters stand behind Frick and believe he is being unfairly targeted.

The Frick family has a long history of serving on the fire department. Frick’s son, Greg Frick, took over as fire chief for his father in 2000. Prior to Jerry serving as fire chief, his father Lyle was the fire chief, beginning in 1945.

One source of contention is a washer and dryer ordered for the firefighters’ turnout gear. A “misappropriation of funds” to purchase the washer and dryer was cited at a meeting last February. However, Frick said he was able to secure a grant for $18,500 to pay for the equipment. The local contribution for that purchase is $882, he said.

“It was all a vendetta,” Jerry Frick said this week about his firing.

The new dryer for the firefighters’ turnout gear.

“Now, the people are the ones who are going to suffer.”

Frick predicts that the firefighters may threaten to walk off the job like they did last spring when the fire board dragged its feet on passing a budget.

The 75-year-old said he has worked nearly his entire adult life to help “build one of the best fire departments in the county, and they’re tearing it all apart.”

“There’s been a dent in the morale for a long time.”

Officers from the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office have attended the meetings due to the potential of violence erupting.

This time of year is when grant applications need to be written to secure funds for the fire department, Frick said. Fire hose needs to be replaced, and if no one writes a grant application, then the department will lose out.

Voting to eliminate Frick’s position were Colfax Township representatives Diane Wade and Larry Burmeister; Elbridge Township representatives Craig Herremans and Gail Merten; and Leavitt Township representative Raymond Dornebush. Leavitt Township representative Wayne Tanner was absent. Voting against the motion were Walkerville Village representatives James Yancey and Vince Miskosky.

OCP contacted Wade, who is the fire board chairperson, and she said, “I have no comment at this time” and hung up the phone. Herremans also said he had no comment. OCP left messages for Burmeister and Dornebush, but never received return calls.

Yancey agreed with Frick that it’s a vendetta. “It’s all personal issues. Every bit is emotion.”

One solution to the problem is for local people to attend their township board meetings, Yancey said. Too many residents are unaware of what is happening in their local governments. “They don’t understand what is going on. People need to wake up.”

“Our fire department is one of the best in West Michigan,” Yancey said. “They are the best trained, best equipped and have the safest rating. This is thanks to Jerry, Greg and the other officers.”

“They wanted to eliminate Jerry for personal reasons,” Yancey said.

Colfax Township recently withdrew from the fire authority as of August 1, 2018, Yancey said. The township must contract with another fire department before that date in order to have fire protection.

Yancey said he is disappointed that the arguments have become so heated that police officers attend their meetings.

“They could care less for the people they serve,” Frick said.

The board’s next meeting is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Walkerville Fire Barn.

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

 

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