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Evansville fire chief vote delayed

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GINA R. HEINE
January 5, 2011
— Members of the volunteer Evansville Fire Department's oversight board raised concerns Tuesday night about the man firefighters elected last month to become the new chief.

Firefighters at their annual meeting Dec. 13 voted 16-10 to replace Chief Mike Halvensleben with Assistant Chief Terry Wendt. On Tuesday night, the Evansville Fire District Board tabled the decision to approve the firefighters' election of new officers.


Tuesday's agenda included an oath of office for the chief. Discussion began about Wendt's qualifications, but talk later turned to possible personnel issues within the department.


Board members Barbara Jacobson and Tony Wyse wanted to postpone the vote on accepting the new officers, saying they wanted firefighters to bring any personnel issues to board members. Board President Kendall Schneider also pointed out the agenda only included the oath, not a discussion on the election.


The board will discuss the issue at its Feb. 1 meeting, possibly with a closed session for personnel matters.


The board governs the fire department, and issues should be addressed to the board, Jacobson said.


"We have not had any," she said. "If there is personnel issues, we really want to know, and we should know."


Jacobson and Wyse said they were concerned about the number of calls Wendt could respond to during the day, when he works in the village of Oregon.


Wendt said he could make it to a "major situation."


Jacobson also noted the difference in callsóWendt responded to about 29 calls last year while Halvensleben responded to nearly 100, Schneider said.


Wendt said he was going through a divorce and working two jobs, so he didn't have a lot of time, but things are "getting better now."


Jacobson commended Halvensleben for building a new station that came in under-budget and questioned Wendt about his budgeting experience. Wendt said he does budgeting for repairs of village vehicles and does most of the buying for shop supplies.


Board members also said they haven't been following all of the bylaws, including approving new firefighters, and agreed to be more involved in actions within the department.



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