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Oktibbeha fire services coordinator on hot seat

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

Oktibbeha County's long-serving fire coordinator's post may be in jeopardy after District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard expressed some frustrations with him at Monday's board meeting. 

 

Howard asked supervisors to consider County Fire Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan separately as supervisors opened the meeting by unanimously reaffirming the county's other appointed positions. 

 

In the end, Rosenhan, who's served as fire coordinator since October 1988, was unanimously reappointed, but only for two weeks. Supervisors will conduct interviews of possible replacement candidates at the Jan. 16 meeting. 

 

Howard said he's had several issues with Rosenhan through the last year, starting with when he asked the longtime coordinator to create a comprehensive plan for the county's volunteer fire departments about six to eight months ago. 

 

"To date, I haven't seen anything," Howard said. "I haven't heard back from him. I asked him about it and I just haven't heard anything back." 

 

Howard said he also talked to Rosenhan about the Bell Schoolhouse and Rock Hill fire districts having Class 10 fire insurance ratings. The Mississippi State Rating Bureau rates areas for fire protection on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the lowest level of protection. Improving a level can decrease fire insurance premiums for residents and businesses -- for example, fire insurance may be less expensive in a Class 9 district than a Class 10 district. 

 

Howard noted that Austin Check, a training officer for the county's volunteer departments, said a fire protection district could easily lower its rating from Class 10 to Class 9. He further added that, at a meeting at Bell Schoolhouse, Rosenhan announced the State Rating Bureau would come to fire department, but then he didn't show up when the representatives arrived. 

 

"Long story short, I don't think he's committed to being our fire coordinator anymore," Howard said. 

 

"Making an appearance on a fire scene is one thing," Howard later added. "But actually laying out a plan, equipment-wise, manpower-wise -- what we need to do for all our departments in a comprehensive plan -- that's not being done." 

 

Other supervisors said they are open to at least listening to other potential fire coordinator candidates. Board President Orlando Trainer suggested creating an assistant fire coordinator position, possibly for Check, but County Administrator Emily Garrard noted state law might not allow that. 

 

District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller said Check has shown leadership through his work for the county's volunteer departments. However she stopped short of saying whether he should get the fire coordinator post. 

 

"I just know that he is a leader," Miller said. "I don't know if that's just off work he is currently doing or if he should be moved to the lead position." 

 

 

 

Rosenhan responds 

 

Rosenhan, who was absent from Tuesday's board meeting, told The Dispatch he is aware of Howard's desire to improve the fire rating for Bell Schoolhouse and Rock Hill. However, he said the problem is both districts have struggled in recruiting new volunteer firefighters. 

 

"The bottom line is we need to reduce the rating sure, but we have to have people to do it," he said. "We have done recruiting. We have spent money on recruiting. We've done door-to-door, we've done mouth-to-mouth, but we don't have the people that are required by the State Rating Bureau to go from the present rating on down to whatever he (Howard) wants. 

 

"If that's my fault, then so be it," he added. "But at the same time, we've done all sorts of recruiting, checking and this, that and the other and that's the problem. If he doesn't like that, that's the way it is." 

 

Rosenhan also said he didn't know what Howard was talking about in regards to the meeting at Bell Schoolhouse. 

 

As for the comprehensive plan, he said the county's fire association is working on one. 

 

"The fire association consists of the chief and board of directors from each of the seven departments," Rosenhan said. "They have been active in facilitating an overall plan because they're the ones that decide where the money's being spent. I just kind of facilitate it. 

 

"They have had several discussions and materials on a five-year plan because the state mandates one from us," he added. "What he's (Howard) seen and hasn't seen and doesn't like, I don't know." 

 

Rosenhan said he felt "blindsided" by Howard's raising of issues with him. However, he declined to comment on potentially having to interview to keep his job until he had more information on the matter. 

 

"I don't know exactly what I'm defending myself against here," he said. "But I will certainly agree that I serve at the will and pleasure of the supervisors."

 

 

 

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