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Smithville Fire Board Unable to Reach Consensus After Second Month

Board members, Greg Atkins and Debbie Childress discuss the additions of a third board member. Atkins declined to second all of the Childress’s motions. Photo by Nick Hartman.

For the second month in a row, the Smithville Area Fire Board has been unable to reach a consensus on confirming a third board member.

After Michael Summers resigned in December of 2016, the SAFPD Fire Board had two members remaining, President Debbie Childress and Secretary/Treasurer Greg Atkins. Childress and Atkins then took steps to fill the vacancy by opening the position to the public on December 20, 2016. Following the deadline on January 16, 2017, six citizens from the district submitted their applications to fill the seat. The citizens were Charlie Waters, Greg Vincent, Greg Peters, Duane Garmeson, Bob Painter, and Brenden McCullough.

During the January Board Meeting, Childress and Atkins discussed and debated the addition of a new board member for nearly twenty minutes. Atkins said that he would rather not make a decision at the time because there was a considerable amount of people that said they didn’t know there was a vacancy.

Atkins then suggested to extend the sign-up date until the 15th of March and vote at the March meeting but Childress believed that this was unnecessary as the interested members had nearly a month to sign-up. When Childress began to discuss the vote, Atkins said he wasn’t in the position to make a decision. After further discussion, Childress motioned to accept each candidate one by one of which Atkins declined to second all six motions.

In the following days, this disagreement grew within the community. Over 60 came together on February 28th to attend the monthly Fire Board meeting. In a meeting that lasted over 2 hours, several members expressed their concerns with the board’s inaction to fill the third seat. Childress had once again placed the board vacancy as an item on the agenda, but Atkins continue to claim he was not ready to make a decision.

“I’m not in a better position to appoint a new member now than I was in January,” Atkins said at the meeting. “I’m looked at as the one who is obstructing things but I think that can be shared between us. Deb (Childress), if you would have just granted the opportunity for other candidates to apply, we could be beyond this.”

Childress responded by reiterating that the nominations closed on Monday, January 16th and said that she had been contacted as well and had to tell them no despite their qualification. As Atkins and Childress continued to debate whether to accept or wait, it became more and more apparent that Atkins was not going to budge on the matter. After opening the floor to public comment and hearing from several community members and candidates for the board, Childress said that she felt embarrassed to be on the board with only two members and wanted to get a third member approved to start working together and begin “moving the district forward.”

“It should never take months to approve minutes,” Childress said. “We shouldn’t have to talk for months about who said what and who should record what minutes. This is unbelievable.”

Following these final comments, Childress once again motioned to accept all six candidates one-by-one. And one-by-one Atkins denied to second all six.

Even with six qualified candidates and community members advocating for a full board, it appeared as if Atkins was ignoring the people who have voted for him.  The pressure continues to mount to fill the vacancy as more and more community members become aware of the situation. If Atkins continues to be reluctant and not second a motion to fill the seat it could cost the community $10,000 to hold a Special Election. The election would have to paid for by taxpayers.

The next Fire Board meeting is on March 28 at 7 PM and will be held at 341 Park Dr, Smithville, MO 64089. Please check out the video of the meeting for more information.

About Nick Hartman

Nick Hartman is a senior at Smithville High School and has taken a vested interest in the community for the past few years. He is the Student Body President and is heavily involved in the School District and community. He enjoys being informed and writing stories that matter to the people of the Northland. He will be attending William Woods University in the fall of 2017 to study Political/Legal Studies and play golf. In his limited free time, he enjoys reading and hanging out with friends.