About 50 residents attended the Gordonville Volunteer Fire Protection District's monthly board meeting Tuesday evening, many of whom expressed frustration at the board's refusal to answer why the fire chief was fired.
The meeting in the district's incomplete new structure, which has no lights or air conditioning, lasted until dark forced it to end.
Many of the people in attendance, including members of the fire department, demanded answers to questions that had surrounded the department since the board's previous meeting.
"Are we ever going to know why Randy Morris, our chief, was let go?" firefighter Tim Bleichroth asked. "You're telling us we don't support our chief. We don't support our board."
Board members did not respond to residents' questions about the firing.
The board terminated chief Morris during its June 6 meeting. After the dismissal, three other firefighters quit, including assistant chief Steve Corzine. About 20 firefighters threatened to resign, and the board refused to meet with firefighters to discuss their grievances in the days that followed.
The board appointed Jay Snider as the interim fire chief. However, Snider resigned Friday, forcing interim assistant chief Jerry Siemers to become the interim chief.
Board members have not disclosed the cause for the termination, but in a response to a public records request from the Southeast Missourian, district secretary Susan Koerber said Collin McClanahan and Jeff Sneathen voted for the dismissal and Shawn Morris was opposed. Shawn Morris is not related to Randy Morris.
Bleichroth said he was concerned the board didn't have firefighters' backs.
"You know I'm behind you," Shawn Morris said.
"I know," Bleichroth replied.
Gordonville Mayor J.D. King stood near the back of the residents, watching the proceedings.
"I'm just concerned. I got a few phone calls from people wanting to know if they were going to have a fire department or not," King said. "When they call, I just want to know what I'm talking about."
A disagreement among board members Nov. 3, 2010, led to the resignation of five firefighters. In that incident, the board had just reinstated a firefighter who had been released from duty. The firefighter in question had been in the department more than 15 years but hadn't received any training or responded to calls in more than two years.
That same year, the department began construction of a fire station at a cost of $400,000. But after completion of the shell, the structure has stood empty because construction hasn't been finished.
The concrete floor of the building fell short of the 6 inches of concrete required to support a firetruck, Morris said at the time. Rather than repour the concrete, the department took out a four-year warranty on it in case the floor cracks under the weight of a water-filled truck.
John Peters resigned from the board in March 2011, after which McClanahan was appointed to the board. Board member William Craig died Jan. 1 this year. After Craig's death, only two volunteers expressed interest in the position, Sneathen and Bob Andrews.
The decision of whom to appoint to the position fell to circuit court Judge Ben Lewis. Randy Morris threw his support behind Andrews, saying in a letter that the previous board had worked under a "good ole boy" network, but Lewis selected Sneathen.
Residents asked board members Tuesday about the status of the station's floor, on which several onlookers sat to stay cool.
McClanahan said Tuesday that his company built the fire station structure for a little more than $200,000. He addressed the allegation that the concrete was not as thick as it was required to be.
"The issue with the concrete was that it did not break right," McClanahan said.
He said core samples put under stress broke before they reached the optimum pressure.
King asked the board about the status of the department's ISO standings.
Before Randy Morris' ouster, the department was nearing an improvement in its ISO rating, Siemers said. The rating indicates how well departments can respond to structure fires. The lower the number, the better the rating. It is unlikely the department will now attain the new rating, he said.
Corzine said he worked for more than 100 hours on the rating before he resigned but that all his work is gone.
711 Route Z, Gordonville, MO