City denies Greensboro Fire’s request to go non-profit, entire force quitting

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 3:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After more than 20 years working for the city, the Greensboro Fire Department is breaking away, wanting to become their own non profit.

This is a move six-years in the making, after claims of misuse of funds and delayed PPE.

The Fire Department now wants to work directly in tandem with Gadsden County, while still serving the towns of Greensboro, Sycamore, Juniper, Wutompka, Midway, Mt Pleasant and Gretna.

The small station off Greensboro Highway is comprised of 13 volunteers who now hope change is on the horizon.

“We are only asking them to do what’s right,” shares Assistant Fire Chief Danny Hunter. Hunter says the city’s behavior has been unacceptable.

He shares an example where the Chief’s bunker gear needed to be replaced. Typically that happens every ten years or when there is extensive damage. It took 10 months for the new gear to be approved by the City Council.

He says once they took a deep dive into financial statements, asking for a separation was not an unreasonable request. Joe Parramore, who is helping to represent Hunter and the team, provided documents showing funds originally meant for the fire department were applied instead to the town clerk’s salary, or going back to city accounts.

“What they have just done is took those funds and stuck it in their town reserves, so the fire department has started over every year with a fresh budget with no increase, and that hurts our ability to do capitol expenses,” expressed Hunter. “It takes all the control outside the department.”

Their biggest concern is serving a community of roughly 4,000 with little manpower and support.

“You know it costs money for us to maintain our own vehicles and do our own repairs. And it makes it more difficult when you have senior management, in this case the town, running the morale down in the department to the point that we can’t get the most basic needs addressed,” shared Hunter.

Monday night the fire department plans to present city leaders with plans to operate as a non-profit, starting a new contract with Gadsden County. They will also be asking the city to pay back funds owed.

“We are not asking them to go above and beyond,” said Hunter. “We think that’s best for the safety of our people, as well as the people we serve in our community, and the outlying areas that rely on us for fire suppression and rescue.”

WCTV reached out to the City multiple times for comment or a statement, via phone and in-person. Ultimately the town clerk’s aide said he was out of the office.

Hunter says if this plan is agreed upon, they will continue to operate at the fire station and maintain it using their funds. This move will also allow them more opportunity to apply for grants and additional funds that would be needed, outside of what they would get under the new county contract.

The town hall addressing the issue began at 7pm Monday.

Libby Henderson, one of the council members, and the wife to Town Manager Dennis Henderson, was the only one to speak. She cited pages in the contract termination clause and said there were only three possible options for termination. The first being that the contract be assigned to another entity, which Henderson stated could not be done with this current contract as it specifically with Gadsden County and the City of Greensboro. The second is that the fire department would need to provide 6 months notice. Henderson stated that their current contract ends in September, and being that we are in April it would not be ample time.

The third was that there would need to be a cause for termination. She stated the town, nor the county had any cause to terminate the contract and would therefore not be terminating it.

Henderson furthered that while documentation of financial records shows that money is paid to the fire department, she says it is not paid to the department, but rather the town of Greensboro, as they own the entity which is the Fire Department.

Henderson spoke to the town hall, stating that the council does not have to answer to how the money is being spent. She says because of language in the contract, they do not have to respond, but individuals of Greensboro can express their opinions.

Henderson then specifically addressed Hunter and Parramore, and noted that they were unhappy. Henderson specifically told Hunter that if he wanted to offer his services to another volunteer fire department, then he should do so. She says the problems have continued to accrue between the department and the city, and it has become a problem.

Henderson further stated that under their current contract, they are not legally allowed to do what the Fire Department is asking for. She states that it was not up to the employees of the city to decide how the money gets spent.

Henderson then moved to decline the fire departments request. The council then unanimously voted to decline the Greensboro Fire Deparment’s request to operate as a nonprofit.

Hunter then addressed the council and said that if he were to leave, they would be no department. Hunter along with the 12 other volunteer fire department members, left the town hall, and said they were quitting.

All 12 members will be joining the Sycamore Volunteer Fire Department.

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