GREENVILLE — Floyd County Commissioners are expected to approve an expansion of the Greenville Fire Board this week.
According to Commissioners' President Billy Stewart, a second-reading vote on an amendment that will increase the size of the fire board to five members is set to take place at Tuesday's 6 p.m. meeting. If two of the three commissioners vote in favor of the move, they will convene for an executive session to review applications for spots on the board.
Such a review could take place as early as Friday, Stewart said. From there, a public meeting will be scheduled to interview finalists.
"By law it has to be public," Stewart said. "Anyone who wants to listen can come in during those interviews. If everything goes to plan, we should have a full board in two weeks, assuming all the candidates we pick are qualified."
A three-person board was appointed this past May to transform Greenville's all-volunteer fire department into a fire district with paid firefighters, but it has since dropped to one sitting member. In September, Jerry Burkhart was removed by the commissioners in a 2-1 vote, with Chris Jenkins resigning shortly after. The lone remaining member is Heather Peters.
As of Monday morning, roughly a dozen applications had been submitted to fill the expected four open board positions. Stewart noted that this is an increase relative to the round of hires made in May.
"There’s a lot of people in the district that have stepped up to serve," he said. "When we first did it, we had a lot resumes. This second one, we've had a lot more. If it’s in the news, more and more people are interested in what’s going on. It affects them directly."
Stewart added that ideal candidates are those who are "open-minded" rather than those who will come in on "day one with their minds made up." Once appointments are made, he suggested that the new board members sit down with the current volunteers on the fire department to discuss next steps.
"I think the process can be very smooth," Stewart said. "The new fire board needs to communicate with the firemen. Nobody knows what they need better than them."
The need for the fire board was something Stewart considered "urgent" to decide how to best improve fire services in Greenville, with the volunteer fire department's contract expiring on Dec. 31.
At previous meetings, the board considered proposals that would see fire services contracted out to departments in neighboring municipalities. Suggestions included Georgetown Township Fire Protection District, Lafayette Fire Protection District and New Chapel EMS.
No decision could be reached, however, due in part to Burkhart's abstention from voting on contracts given his son's position as a firefighter with Lafayette.
Despite the consideration of contracting out services, Stewart said the existing fire department could be retained in a full-time capacity, if that's what the fire board chooses.
“If it’s best to contract it out, contract it out," he said. "If it’s best to use your current fire department, do what’s best for you district. All people want is the best fire service they can afford, and that’s the key word — what they can afford. I know fire and police protection is needed, but at the same time, there’s a price for everything."
After the new board is in place, Stewart stated that he expects a decision to be made as soon as possible. Given the urgency of the situation, he noted that he doesn't see why a decision can't be reached in 30 days.
"When this was originally brought to us, it was on an emergency basis," he said. "In my mind, that means we need to act now. I expect the board to act immediately and have something in place in 90 days."