Kentucky Firefighters Criticize Fire Chief; Public Forum Scheduled


Jillian Ogawa | | Tuesday, March 25, 2008

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Several Georgetown, Kty., City Council members expressed concern Monday about a letter from firefighters criticizing the management style and some of the decisions of Fire Chief Rob Wittenbarger.

The criticisms will be aired in a public forum, the council decided.

The unsigned letter accused Wittenbarger of cutting back on emergency runs, including the possibility of not responding immediately to car accidents unless requested by Emergency Management officials. The letter also accused the fire chief of not replacing aging and broken equipment and making disparaging remarks to employees.

"It's a good thing the public is being made aware of the direction that is taking place in the department," Eric Colson, president of Georgetown Professional Firefighters Local 3681, said after the meeting. "And I hope we can take corrective measures before they can get out of hand."

In response to the letter, Wittenbarger said in an interview last week that the department is still responding to vehicle accidents, but has worked with EMS to change which medical runs firefighters should respond to.

Wittenbarger is evaluating the efficiency of responding to certain non-emergency calls. The department has already limited responses on certain medical runs, such as asthma attacks, Mayor Karen Tingle Sames told the Herald-Leader.

Wittenbarger said the disparaging remarks cited in the letter were taken out of context, and that equipment is being repaired. The department has gone at least $700,000 over budget over the past three years, he added.

"We will balance the safety of the citizens with the fiscal responsibility of managing our tax dollars," said Wittenbarger, who has been fire chief since 2007.

Councilman Mark Singer said it is important to discuss the issues "out in the open as much as possible."

The public forum will be at 6 p.m. April 7 at the Cardome building in Georgetown.

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