At Between the Lines headquarters, we’ve been hearing the buzz on the streets over the past month or two. Based on some community chatter and a couple of not-so-subtle but at the same time not-very-specific comments to me by folks on the inside at the Central Platte Fire Department, I was being led to believe that some newsworthy things were about to happen at the department.
Now we know a few things have happened. It began last Monday, Jan. 23, with a special meeting of the Central Platte board of directors at the office of the board’s legal counsel.
At that meeting, board members accepted the resignation of longtime fire chief Larry Bigus. At that same meeting, the board appointed firefighter Troy Miller as interim chief to fill the role of chief until a permanent choice is made.
A day later on Tuesday, Jan. 24, Brett Lemons, the deputy chief under Bigus, submitted his resignation. The timing of that resignation–a day after he was not chosen to serve as interim chief–is probably not a coincidence. I’m not a mind reader, but one could assume perhaps he was not happy about being passed over.
Aaron Jung, one of the members of the three-member Central Platte board of directors, told me that Bigus and Lemons “both resigned on their own” and they “did not offer reasoning.” Jung said “they both just decided it was time to go do something else.” Prior to the resignation, there had been talk on the streets that the board had cracked down on Bigus’s frequent use of a fire department vehicle, which could often be spotted with Bigus inside at times and locations that some members of the public didn’t seem to think was necessary or appropriate for an official publicly-funded vehicle. That word has been circulating on the street for a month or two. Jung did not address it in our conversation.
Later that day on Jan. 24, one of the department’s captains–Brandon Detrick–submitted his resignation.
So three members of the top brass of the volunteer department are gone.
“We named Troy Miller interim chief. We are in the process of working on reviewing the budget and looking to post the position,” Jung said Tuesday during a phone conversation with me. A new job description for the role of chief should be finalized soon, he indicated. “We’re looking at a couple of scenarios, trying to figure out what’s best for the district,” Jung remarked. “We want to provide great service and be fiscally responsible as well.”
Members of the Central Platte Fire District Board of Directors are Mike Ashcraft, Steve McCullough and Aaron Jung. Jung has been on the board about five months.
Troy Miller, the firefighter who was named the interim chief, is also a member of the Platte City Board of Aldermen.
The fire department pays about $300,000 annually in payroll to the volunteer firefighters, who get paid on a per-run basis. Jung said the per-run rate of pay is roughly $19 per call, on a sliding scale. Command staff such as captains, deputy chief and chief get a monthly check ranging from $500 to $1,000 plus their pay for “runs,” Jung said.
Jung noted there used to be about 30 active volunteer firefighters, though he doesn’t believe the number is that high at present.
With recent changes, there’s a chance there will be some folks “who want to come back,” Jung said. “And new folks who want to join.”
He has had other roles but Jung might best be best remembered for his time on the Platte City Board of Aldermen. He was on the board when the aldermen on a split vote decided to fire then-city administrator Keith Moody in January of 2008. It was a decision that was necessary and overdue.
It’s also a decision that was detailed last week in our 15 Years Ago column within our weekly Looking Backward feature that always appears on page 3. More than half of the 15 Years Ago portion of Looking Backward last week was devoted to the Moody firing.
You want a kind of funny sidenote? I have it on good authority that Keith Moody was in Platte City last Thursday, the day most Landmark readers would have been picking up the edition featuring the recollection of his firing here in January 2008. I doubt Keith picked up a copy while he was in town, but you never know.
Moody is now city administrator in Roeland Park, Kan., which is in Johnson County. He has been in that spot since 2015. Roeland Park has a population of about 6,800 folks.
Word on the street is that while Moody was in town last week he took a sneak peak at the new City Hall being built in Platte City.
It’s not Moody’s first trip back to Platte City, of course. I looked out the large front window of The Landmark one day a couple of years ago to see Moody walking down the sidewalk on Main Street with a couple of familiar local faces, headed to a local establishment for lunch, I assume. And I did run into Moody at a Missouri Western vs. Northwest Missouri State football game back in 2011 or 2012. Enjoyed a brief chat with him on that fall afternoon. At that time he was working as city administrator in Harrisonville.
Next scheduled meeting of the Central Platte Fire District Board of Directors, which I would imagine has the potential to be interesting, is set for Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at the headquarters at Second and Main.
Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day. Hmm. The fire board meeting is on the day typically thought of for love and stuff.
(Get more Valentine’s Day thoughts and tips from Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org)