MINER - The City of Miner may soon depend on the Sikeston Department of Public Safety for fire protection.
Benny Thurston, fire division chief for Miner, was advised by the City Clerk Janet Tuttle at about noon Friday that his job status will change beginning next month.
"After March 31 they are going to reduce my job to a volunteer fire chief job," Thurston said. "They are doing away with paid full-time fire chief."
Mayor Mitch Thompson said the city's Board of Aldermen would have preferred not to air the city's personnel issues in the media, but a letter to the Miner's residents explaining the situation is being drafted and will be published in the Wednesday edition of the Standard Democrat.
"We are mailing that letter to the citizens as soon as it is reviewed by the city attorney," Thompson said.
The mayor explained: "We never did have a full-time fire chief. He was fire chief but he was also building inspector and code enforcement officer."
Thompson said Thurston was not performing the building inspection duties to the Board's satisfaction.
"We spoke to him on this issue too many times to no avail," he said. "We just shifted those duties, so it made his position less than full time, and we couldn't keep a full-time employee for part-time work."
"We offered him part-time code enforcement and fire chief but he didn't want that position," Thompson added.
Thurston said he wanted Miner's residents to know that "we will be there for them as much as we can but when they eliminate the full-time job it affects their fire rating and their fire protection and I don't want that to happen," Thurston said. "I want them to know what will transpire if I lose my full-time job."
Miner could end up losing more than just its fire chief, however: "If I lose my job out there, they're considering walking off the job," Thurston said of Miner's volunteer fire fighters.
"It's commendable the fire fighters want to stand up for their fire chief," Thompson said. "He's a good fire chief, but the city just can't have a part-
time employee for a full time job."
Sikeston DPS Director Drew Juden confirmed he had received word that a walk-off was planned by Miner's fire department on April 1 if the fire chief position is not returned to full-time status.
"We have been asked, should their fire department walk off the job, if we would provide fire protect for the City of Miner," Juden said. "We have not been asked to provide any coverage at this time." He added that, "anybody who needs our help, if we have the ability to provide the help we will."
Juden predicted there will be some ongoing dialogue between the Sikeston and Miner mayors to work out all the details of the agreement but in the meantime Miner's residents do not have to worry about fire protection.
"We're prepared - if they call right now and say all their fire department personnel have walked off the job it wouldn't take us two seconds to be ready to go," Juden said.