By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The city’s newly redefined fire department will move forward under new administration following last week’s resignation by Fire Chief Dan Reynolds.
Mayor Rick Sollars said Reynolds, who’d taken the position less than a year ago, told city officials last week that he would resign effective June 1.
“We didn’t see this coming,” Sollars said, although it was understood that Reynolds had become eligible for retirement. “This was a decision he had to make for what’s best for his family.”
Sollars said Reynolds had “done a great job stabilizing the department,” which has gone through numerous changes and challenges in recent years.
Moving forward Sollars said the current roster of 36 firefighters will likely remain, a number reached after 11 firefighters were laid off in January.
Those positions had been funded by a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services grant that expired. The city had scrambled to maintain both staffing and facilities, including a temporary closure of two of its three fire stations, but Sollars said the current structure can provide the needed services while staying within budget.
“The model has worked well since we’ve done it,” Sollars said.
The city is able to provide Advanced Life Support services, fire suppression and maintain three stations open around the clock.
“That’s what we’re optimistic about,” Sollars said. “This number is a long-term solution.”
Staffing seems secure, Sollars said, in a municipal budget that three years ago had reached a deficit of up to $3 million, but has since closed out a five-year debt-elimination plan sooner than expected. The challenge now for city officials, he said, will be to replace outdated, expensive equipment. Three of the city’s fire trucks are five years past their expected lifespan.
“Fire trucks cost upwards of $5 million,” Sollars said. “That and finding a new chief will be the next big hurdles.”
The position has been posted and applicants from within the department have until May 15 to submit their names for consideration. Sollars said he expected to have a new chief appointed prior to Reynolds’ final day.
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)