WHITEWRIGHT — The city of Whitewright approved the creation of the Whitewright Fire Department on Jan. 7. Previously, the Whitewright Volunteer Fire Department had provided fire service to the city.
“We are reorganizing and making it better for the community,” said Whitewright Mayor Bill Goodson.
The move away from the volunteer department comes after a series of disagreements and troubles between the city and the WVFD. The decision to provide its own service through the city was a result of “lots of little things” that mounted throughout the relationship with the department, including the quality of service provided to the city, said Goodson.
Former Whitewright Fire Chief Joshua Clouse described the decision for the city to cut ties to his department as failed contract negotiations.
The city has taken over operation of the fire station and will be manning it with full-time firefighters. Currently, the station is staffed by six firefighters but there are plans to hire a fire chief and 10 more, said Goodson.
“There was a lot of misinformation in the Council (meeting),” said Clouse.
The volunteer department is a non-profit corporation and not a part of the city of Whitewright, which places the organization under the jurisdiction of Texas Administration and Business Codes, said Clouse.
While the WVFD had agreements to render service within the city, it never had a contract. In trying to reach a contract, the city sought control of the department’s finances, contracts and the appointment of its officers, which violates the business code, said Clouse.
The Department was set to come to an agreement by Oct. 1, but never heard back from the city, said Clouse.
“It wasn’t the fire department that stepped away from the negotiating table,” said Clouse.
Clouse went on to say that outside of the three engines purchased by the city, the other equipment belongs to the WVFD. Clouse said since the Jan. 7 meeting the city has obstructed the WVFD members from removing or retrieving any equipment or belongings from the fire station.
“It is the department’s stance that they have illegally seized our property,” said Clouse.
Goodson said the city has barred the firefighters from entering the station as it inventories equipment at the facility. He went on to say that the equipment was purchased by and belongs to the city.
In the interim, Goodson said its current fire department will be supported by neighboring fire departments through mutual aid agreements. The agreements to handle aid during the transition were set up in advance of the decision to distance the city from the volunteer department, said Goodson.
For his part, Tom Bean Fire Chief James Dixon said he knew nothing of the decision or aid promised during the transition until a water department worker contacted him. The city of Whitewright has yet to contact him at all, said Dixon Wednesday afternoon. Dixon said he has had no troubles with the department in the past and that the Tom Bean Fire Department supports the volunteer department in the ongoing disagreements.
Leader Photo by Chris Jennings / Herald Democrat
The Whitewright City Council voted on Jan. 7 to form the Whitewright Fire Department, effectively severing ties with its volunteer department, which had previously provided fire service to the city.