During their meeting Tuesday morning, the Bourbon County Commission met with Drywood and Scott township members who gave an update on what has occurred within the Garland Fire District in recent months.
Scott Township clerk Don Banwart and Drywood Township trustee Darrel Bloomfield gave information on issues they said they have faced with the fire department of unincorporated Garland in recent months and even years.
“The situation in Garland has deteriorated,” Banwart said.
First created in 1968 by the county commission and a vote, the Garland Fire Department has responded to calls around the small town and the surrounding area since that time.
As townships lines were drawn in Bourbon County, it was determined that the district includes areas in the Scott and Drywood townships, leading to the Garland fire board including representatives from the two townships. As a result, a hierarchy of authority was created, with the fire board answering to the township boards that then are beneath the county commission if needed.
But most recently, Banwart and Bloomfield said townships have not been made aware of the state of the fire district concerning such information as how many board members or firefighters there are, who the treasurer is or how the money is being used. When those details and an audit were requested, the fire board refused.
Banwart said the department has also responded to emergency calls in an untimely manner of late, sometimes arriving with few volunteers or not at all, resulting in the Scott Township firefighters often responding. To resolve that risk, the townships made official their request to Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou that the Scott Township department always respond to Garland emergencies.
Enforcing a statute that states the townships have the right to form the fire board, citing insubordination of the current board as their reason for doing so, Banwart said the joint townships voted to make changes to the board by presenting new electors who would represent township members who do not live in the Garland district and so can not serve on the board directly. Some of the board positions are currently open since such electors have not been appointed while others have served beyond the three-year terms of elected township members they represented.
But prior to the meeting held Monday evening, when names of electors would have been proposed, Banwart said they received a restraining order that stated the actions to change the fire board were causing confusion and disorder.
Banwart said their goal is to have transparency between the fire board and townships, adding they have heard from numerous residents from within the Garland Fire District that have concerns about how it is run and how the taxpayers’ money is being spent.
“All that we want is for things to run smoothly and for people to get what they’re paying for,” Bloomfield said.
County Commissioners said they did not think they should step in with action at this time, but thanked Banwart and Bloomfield for the information and expressed their desire to be kept up to date on further issues.