The establishment of a merit board to oversee Vincennes City firefighters is now on the cusp of becoming a reality.
The proposed board would see a panel of five commissioners, two appointed by the mayor, one appointed by the city council and two active firefighters, take over the decision making process when it comes to hirings, firings and promotions within the department.
The issue has been a big topic of discussion for two months, but an ordinance was finally passed by the City Council at their meeting last night to establish the board. That decision didn’t come easy, however. The City Council voted to unanimously approved the creation of the ordinance to establish the board on first reading, but from there, things became a bit more interesting.
Councilman Jim Westfall made a motion to suspend council rules and vote on the issue on a second and third reading, thus putting the ordinance into place. The man to his left, Councilman Duane Chattin disagreed, saying that doing so would prevent further discussion amongst firefighters as they hold a referendum of their own. That’s where Union President Justin Lowe stepped in. Lowe assured council members that there had been plenty of discussion amongst members of the union, and he was confident that establishing and ordinance would be the right next step.
Council proceeded in suspending their own rules, approving the ordinance on second and third readings by a vote to 6 to 1. Chattin cast the lone no votes. Lowe noted that he is confident local firefighters will approve the establishment of the board during a ballot vote as well.
The issue now bounces to the Vincennes Board of Works, who will set the date for a firefighters referendum, in which local firefighters will gather to discuss details of the merit board and cast their votes to either approve or reject the creation of the board.