Local News

Battle Between Selma Firefighters, Mayor Heats up

Posted June 13, 2007 6:38 p.m. EDT

— A Selma assistant fire chief has been fired and 10 other firefighters’ jobs are on the line after a dispute last week.

The firefighters were suspended after walking-off the job in protest of the town manager’s decision to replace their volunteer fire chief -- who has been with the department for more than 30 years -- with a new paid, full-time chief.

To protest the change, the firefighters placed their gear outside Mayor Charles Hester’s house on June 7.

The town initially suspended the 10 for their actions. Assistant Chief Alvin Heath has since been fired after the mayor said Heath called his house multiple times and left a threatening message.

“It was enough that when I played it for the town manager, he felt the person should be terminated,” Hester said. “You know, like asking me to come to his house and we’d settle it man to man or gentleman to gentleman.”

Hester said a suspension for the rest of the firefighters is not enough. He wants them gone, too.

A mediation meeting between the mayor, town manager and the firefighters was scheduled for Wednesday night. It was not open to the public, but the town manager is expected to report on the outcome Thursday.

“It may be termination of all those people, it may not be, but I don't know yet,” Hester said.

Both sides say it's a battle that has been brewing for years.

Firefighters want the town to hire a full time engineer to help maintain equipment. On Tuesday night, the town board voted instead to move forward with a budget that includes a $55,000 salary for a new full time chief.

“I don’t think it’s getting out of hand,” Hester said. “I think it’s just coming to a head.”

Chief Price and his firefighters declined to comment until the town decides what to do with those who turned in their gear.