MINER -- Rather than waiting for a showdown on April 1, the Miner Board of Aldermen has fired the city's fire division chief.
"We went ahead and relieved him (fire chief Benny Thurston) of his duties today," Mayor Mitch Thompson said Friday. He explained the Board thought it would be best to take action now "instead of putting undue anxiety on the citizens" by waiting until April 1. Thompson said this way the city can "begin the process of rebuilding the fire department."
"We don't want to have the citizens wondering what is going to happen in two weeks time," Thompson said, "so we'll just see what we have now."
The former fire chief was advised by City Clerk Janet Tuttle March 11 that his job status would change from full-time fire chief to part-time chief on April 1.
Board members decided to offer Thurston a part-time code enforcement/fire chief position which Thurston declined to accept.
Upon hearing the news, some of Miner's volunteer fire fighters announced they would walk on April 1 if they lost their full-time fire chief.
Having received notice of his termination, Thurston retrieved his personal items from the fire station Friday.
"I think the city did me wrong and I regret the decision they made. I hope it turns out for the best but I don't think it will," Thurston said. "It's a sad day for Miner, I believe, because the things I built up and did out here aren't going to happen anymore."
Thompson explained Miner never had a position consisting of only full-time fire chief. He said the job also includes building inspector and code enforcement duties which Thurston was not performing to the Board's satisfaction even after the matter was discussed with Thurston several times.
Thurston said Miner residents should know not having a full-time fire chief affects the city's fire rating and insurance rates in addition to affecting the quality of fire protection.
"We still have an agreement with Sikeston and Scott County to cover us if we need it - the citizens are covered," Thompson said. "There is nothing to be alarmed about or worried. The citizens are covered in case of an emergency.
"We already have new members of the fire department and they're certified fire fighters," he added.
Thompson said the Fire Fighters Association would be meeting "to see how many members they are going to have at this time ... see who of the existing membership is going to remain."
"As it stands now, we have six to eight already on board," he said.