By Billy Davis
A new commissioner was added Monday to the Longtown Volunteer Fire Department, this time without creating a ruckus, at the county supervisors’ meeting Monday.
Supervisor Vernice Avant announced she was appointing Gregory McGhee, then supervisors voted 5-0 to accept her choice.
Avant’s pick ended a standoff with other Longtown commissioners over her plan to reappoint Paula Askew to the five-person board.
That disagreement created a clash at supervisors’ July 6 meeting, since the commission had already voted to remove Askew and had named her replacement.
Commissioners objected to Avant’s intention to reappoint Askew, telling supervisors last week that Askew had moved out of the fire district and had failed to attend meetings during the current year.
Commissioner Danny Willard also said Askew had not secured a mandatory insurance policy, more commonly known as being bonded.
Willard and a second commissioner, Herman Bradley, were present Monday to witness Avant’s appointment of McGhee.
Before supervisors took action on the matter, state fire coordinator Larry Barr assured them that Askew is disqualified if she lives outside the fire district.
Barr also said, however, that supervisors are “solely authorized to reappoint someone,” a statement that conflicts with Willard’s statement that they had ousted Askew and chosen a replacement.
After Monday’s board meeting, Emergency Management director Daniel Cole sought to clarify Barr’s “solely authorized” statement.
“The commissioners or the fire department can make a suggestion, which they do,” Cole said. “But it’s the Board of Supervisor’s responsibility to appoint someone when there’s a vacancy.”
Cole further clarified his own actions at supervisors’ meetings: when he announces an appointment to a fire department’s board of commissioners, the name has already been mentioned to – and approved by – the county supervisor.
Cole’s formal request is done, therefore, to spread the board vote on the minutes.
Also at the Monday meeting, Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock commented that other commissioners – not just Askew – have also failed to get bonded. The bonds are recorded in the chancery clerk’s office.
New state laws have boosted the bond amount from $10,000 to $50,000, which also boosted to cost of the insurance policy, Cole explained.
Cole told The Panolian he expects to present five commissioners’ names to the Board of Supervisors in August.