Limbaugh/Seinfeld Style Not So Funny at Monarch Fire Meeting

Chesterfield public agency has no room for wording reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh's "feminazi" or Jerry Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi."

When there is a rare open public meeting at Chesterfield's March Fire Protection District, someone from Chesterfield Patch tries to attend. On Monday night, there were a total of three people at the meeting, including me. One left early. Here's what I heard.

A Nazi on staff: During a discussion about increasing firefighter/paramedic on-the-job training from half-an-hour a day to two hours a day, district Training Officer Robin Echele used statistics to make a point. He referred to a staffer as the “Data Nazi” who had come up with certain statistics.

It struck me as odd that a person working in a political subdivision that included a sizeable Jewish population would even consider using the word “Nazi” in this way. Nazis killed and tortured tens of millions of innocent people. Someone who is into numbers and statistics might be described as a "geek," "number cruncher," or even "nerd." There is a big difference.

Monarch Fire Chief Tom Vineyard overhead me mention this use of "Nazi" to district board Director Steven Swyers after the meeting. He showed me his notes, and I'll just say that term is not going to used again.

(Editor's note: Vineyard called later to point out the term was neither used nor heard in the department prior to this.)

Automated Calling System to be Paid by District and not Union: Monarch's Board of Directors heard how the automatic call out system, that would call firefighter/paramedics in the case overtime shifts needed to be filled or an emergency situation required more firefighters, was being paid for by the fire union, Local 2665. The computer call system costs $1,440 a year. No staff members or board members could explain why the union was paying for this.

The board’s attorney mentioned that the service could be paid for out of the dispatching tax, as district property owners are charged 5-cents per $100 tax valuation fire dispatch tax.

It was decided that Local 2665 would be reimbursed for the annual payment they made on April 1 and the district would pay the bill in future years.

Fire District HQ to be a polling place:  Chief Tom Vineyard told the board how he had received two calls from the Board of Election Commissioners about using the District headquarters building at 13725 Olive Blvd. as a polling place. Vineyard said that staff members told him the building had been used as a polling place in the past and employees found it to be disruptive.

It was pointed out that Missouri law requires buildings that receive tax money to be used as polling places. Another district building is being used as a polling place now. The board voted 3-0 to allow the use.

Public Education Officer: Neighboring West County EMS and Fire Protection District recently laid off their public information and education officer after revenue fell. The Monarch board discussed how they currently didn’t have a public education officer.

Fire Inspector Roger Morris had been doing that duty, but his workload had increased when commercial inspections were shifted.

Chief Vineyard wanted to have a line firefighter transfer to that duty for a six month trial period. Board member Robin Harris complained if the chief did that it would either show that the department had been overstaffed or there would have to be an increase payout of overtime to cover the shift position vacated by the Education Officer.

The board voted 2-1 to allow a full time firefighter/paramedic to be transferred to a Public Education Officer position for six months. Harris voted against the resolution.

After the meeting Harris said he thought a contract employee, who received no benefits or overtime could do the job. Board member Steven Swyers agreed that a retired fire professional with a background in education as a contractor would be ideal, but thought the temporary assignment could show how much work was involved before a contract employee was hired.

FIRES UP IN 2012:  Fire Marshal Roger Hearn reported there were 10 building fires in the first quarter of 2012 which is up from six in 2011. He added that four of the fires were serious. The other 22 fire calls involved vehicle fires or other minor outside fires.

I might point out that 10 building fires in three months for a district with five fire stations comes out to 3.3 fires a month or one every nine days. A single St. Louis fire station might handle that many in a single night.  

Hearn also reported that 77 building permits were issued for the first quarter, including three “high value” permits involving buildings valued over $1,000,000. Those were the new American Girl store at Chesterfield Mall, the rehab work at the Doubletree Hotel and rehab work at the Mercy Healthcare Center.

MAY MEETINGS   April showers might bring May flowers, but at Monarch, May means more meetings closed to the public. The final item on the agenda was to set May meetings. Everyone checked their schedules. The first meeting of May would be with only two members, as Harris would be out of town on his job as an airline pilot.  

Closed meetings outnumber public meetings three to two for May, according to my count. Vineyard said it is actually two closed, and two open. One of the open meetings starts with a closed meeting prior. I'm counting that.

It would be nice if the District could be like more public bodies and go an entire month without a closed meeting.

stephan D'boyd April 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Your keyboard drips with envy. It is so obvious. Do you know what policemen wanted to be as a kid? A fireman. Why else would you spend so much time on these public employees and spew tainted and biased information. Often inaccurate. First off, his name is Robin Echelle, not Tim. Second, there are many reasons for fewer fires than St. Louis city. Obviously newer construction the demographics of the citizens. Most importantly is the "fire prevention through education". Have you ever done a story about the firemen changing and installing smoke detectors to anyone who wants one. House fires are a small dimension of the Monarch fire district. Please take the time to find out more. When Mr Hoffman was an officer, did he spend all of his days in a deadly shoot out with bank robbers like the movie "heat"? Then why compare Monarch employees to ones in "backdraft". I would have to imagine the firefighters would take offense to being labelled as such one dimension employees. Finally, Mr Hoffman should know that the state allows closed meetings for many things. There is a reason for that. And just because there is a closed session does not mean there are secrets. Has Mr Hoffman ever considered that maybe the current board has to be in closed session to facilitate the mending of a District that Mr Gans and Mr Harris have so blatantly directed with such malicious fervor?
stephaab d'fella April 18, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Dave, I am not sure why you are not applying your literary talent and credentials to a broader coverage of public meetings. I often wonder if there is an agenda or an emotional attachment of some sort to the fireman. I did gain alot from your article and I thank you for your effort. I was a little baffled at the comparison to the city and their firecalls and wanted to elaborate. There is another writer in south county that often shares similiar comparisons. I wonder if you are familiar with him? The city of st louis and west county are different. The buildings are older and more stout. The population and of course quantity of structures are different. Of course you realize there is a contrast in a socioeconomic sense as well. The city on the news appears to be plagued with abondoned buildings, crime and poverty. The folks battled " twelve serious fires" that you eont find in the city. 12 dangerous lightweight construction fires. I am sure they salvaged and recovered a quantity of personal possesions that you wont find in the city. The Monarch employees remain long after and assist the families in many ways that exceed fire supression responsibilities. I also dont recall hearing anout any serious employee injuries at these fires. Job well done! Also, I want to thank you for the coverage of their changes. They are training more and educating the public more. I applaud them. Keep up the good work fellas! Thanks Dave.
Jean Whitney April 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The columnist's name is spell Hoffmann.
George Harrison April 19, 2012 at 03:58 AM
John, I appreciate your reporting on these meetings. Most residents find attending difficult and it's nice to hear what's going on with the fire district. However, I have to say I'd find it easier to take you seriously if your columns about the district were a little less nasty in tone. I have a hard time believing that many of the district employees are bad people, much less Nazis. I agree that this was probably not the best term to use in a public meeting, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if "nerd," as you suggest as an alternative, had been used, a column would still have been the end result. There's plenty of negativity in this world, the fire district included no doubt, you don't need to manufacture controversy.


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