FAYETTE, Mo. - UPDATE 1:30 PM: The city council of Fayette approved a controversial ordinance Tuesday night, effectively dissolving the city's fire department, but the City's Aldermen reversed the ordinance Friday morning.
"By signing this they shut down their city fire department,” Fayette Volunteer Fire Chief Chris Baylor said.
The ordinance allowed the city to hire the former fire department employees as "independent contractors" and pay on a monthly basis. Baylor said the ordinance was intended to make sure the firefighters got paid, but it backfired.
"It stated in there that we weren't covered under the city’s insurance, that we weren’t considered city employees." Baylor said. "We were considered independent contractors for the city and there was no notification of me or the fire district about that issue at all.”
"As such they have canceled the workman’s compensation insurance as well as all other types of insurance, including liability, formerly provided to the City Firefighters," said Baylor in a Facebook post. "As of 9:00 p.m. on Thursday evening the Fayette Fire Department has suspended the fire and rescue services for the City of Fayette. We apologize for the risk that this imposes on the citizens of Fayette."
Baylor shut down the fire department Thursday night. “I felt I can’t send firefighters into a structure fire not being covered under insurance, if something would happen to one of us, then you’re on your own,” Baylor said.
Fayette City Administrator Robin Triplett said she was shocked when the city decided to take away worker's compensation. “To me it’s not a matter of saving money, it’s a matter of providing the services to our citizens and how best to do that,” Triplett said.
“I got word Wednesday evening.” Baylor said. “I made an appointment with the city administrator to go over the budget for next year. She printed off a copy and handed it to me, said this is public knowledge, you need to read this.”
Baylor said in the post that the city council approved the change without contacting him or the Howard County Fire Protection District Board.
This ordinance was started as a way to have the fire department on record and make sure the fire department would always be paid, Triplett said. She's been with the city for more than 30 years and said the fire department had never been 'in the books'.
The City's attorney, Cydney Mayfield provided the board with this ordinance. "She felt that under federal and state laws that the firemen should be independent contractors, therefore it wouldn't allow them to receive worker's compensation," Triplett said.
Triplett said this is not a lack of oversight on the city, but it's just the way the city has run for decades.
"There will probably be some discussion as to if we want to keep funding it through the general fund, whether we want to become a member of the Howard County Protection District or if we want to contract with the Howard County Protection District," Triplett said.
Baylor said there's pros and cons to each option moving forward.