Janesville73.1°

Fire board plans more involvement

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Gina Duwe
January 29, 2011

— The Evansville Fire Department could have a new chief after a meeting Tuesday night.


The process of getting to that point has highlighted the need for the fire district board that oversees the department to take a more active role in personnel issues in the department.


Board members admitted at a January meeting that they haven't been following all aspects of their bylaws, including approving new volunteers.


The board will be more involved in approving new firefighters and officers, board President Kendall Schneider said. The fire department and fire district also have different bylaws, so both likely will be reviewed to see how they correlate, he said.


When an individual wants to join the department now, an application is filled out and a committee interviews the candidate, Chief Mike Halvensleben said. The committee makes a recommendation to the chief, who brings the applicant up for a vote before the rest of the department, he said.


Department members didn't realize the board's bylaws called for approving new firefighters, he said.


"(The two different bylaws) probably needs to correspond better together than it does right now," he said.


At their annual meeting Dec. 13, firefighters voted 16-10 to replace Halvensleben with Assistant Chief Terry Wendt. At the board's Jan. 4 meeting, board members questioned Wendt's qualifications before the discussion turned to possible personnel issues.


The board then postponed acceptance of new officers until next week's meeting, hoping to hear from firefighters about any personnel concerns.


Husband and wife Bob and Jamie Kessenich attended that meeting, where the denial of Jamie Kessenich's application to join the department was brought up.


Jamie Kessenich is a full-time Janesville firefighter and paramedic who applied last year to re-join the Evansville department after having taken a few years off, said her husband, a firefighter at the Evansville department. The board never reviewed Jamie's application, and she was never given an explanation why she wasn't approved, her husband said.


Halvensleben declined to comment about the situation.


Tuesday's agenda includes a possible closed session, where Schneider said the board could discuss Kessenich's application.


If you go


The Evansville Fire District Board's monthly meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at the fire station, 425 Water St.


The agenda includes a discussion of the firefighters' election and oath of office for the new officers and chief.



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