Past president of the Upshur County Firefighters Association John Roby, at right, says he will not serve for another term. Also pictured is firefighters association member Brian Zickefoose. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

County rep joins committee to address manpower shortage in fire service; New firefighters association president elected

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Firefighters Association elected a new president and announced a representative from the Upshur County Commission would be joining a special committee exploring the countywide manpower shortage across all fire departments.

The Upshur County Firefighters Association was scheduled to hold elections for president and treasurer at its monthly meeting July 27 in Buckhannon’s Public Safety Complex conference and training room. Sitting president John Roby said he would not seek re-election and instead nominated Tyvonne Gibson with the Adrian Fire Department to serve as the new president. Gibson won the vote; however, the election for treasurer was tabled after there were no volunteers and no nominations among the attending members.

Vice president of the Upshur County Firefighters Association Joe Carrico also read a letter of correspondence from the Upshur County Commission, which recently voted to appoint commission president Kristie Tenney as the county commission’s representative on the association’s special committee to examine a countywide manpower shortage in the fire service.

“After discussion, the commission appointed commissioner Kristie Tenney as the Upshur County commission representative,” Carrico read. “The commission has confidence she will be an asset for the Fire[fighters] Association as you work to determine viable solutions to the problems you are facing.”

The exploratory committee is researching options to address the countywide manpower shortage in the fire service. The commission had initially tabled nominating a representative after one member questioned whether the association was a legally formed entity but later tapped Tenney to participate.

“She came to the committee meeting today and listened a little bit, but she had a lot of great ideas,” Carrico added.

The commission also decided that volunteer members of the Buckhannon Fire Department will be allowed to vote on firefighters association matters, Carrico explained. Paid members will be allowed to participate in meetings but will not be given a vote.

“The [West Virginia] state code says, for some reason, that paid fire departments cannot be a member of the association,” Carrico said. “In talking with Kristie, I was told Buckhannon can have pure volunteer people here to participate and vote, the paid people can come to participate, but they did not have a vote.”

Carrico said Buckhannon Fire Chief JB Kimble requested the commission’s determination in writing and presented that document to the city attorney, Tom O’Neill, before the Buckhannon Fire Department agreed to fully rejoin the association.

Gibson also talked about some of the events coming up to help the fire departments regain a presence in the community. The departments are collaborating with Shoe Sensation Sept. 3, where shoppers can receive 20 percent off their purchase and meet the firefighters that will be present outside, with some fire trucks and fire engines.

Director of Upshur County EMS Gloria Burr is also arranging an expo Aug. 20 at Maniac Mountain. The event will give people a chance to meet first responders and enjoy a plethora of family-friendly activities. Some activities include a slip-and-slide, a bounce house, an obstacle course and goodie bags for children. The event will be free to the public, but several vendors will also be present selling their items.

The Upshur County Firefighters Association meets on the last Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. inside the Public Safety Complex on Florida Street.

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