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State Commission Examining Bromley Fire Department as Neighboring Chief Says City Not Pulling Weight

EXCLUSIVE

The chief of the Bromley Volunteer Fire Department has his hands full these days, and not just because he is also the mayor of this northern Kenton County city of roughly 800 people.

The Kentucky Fire Commission is examining the department's roster after names submitted by Jobe were discovered to belong to firefighters who are not part of the Bromley volunteer team. 

Meanwhile, the chief of the Crescent Springs-Villa Hills Fire Department has submitted a letter to the City of Bromley, arguing that the number of calls to which his department responds in the city is not fair to the taxpayers from the two cities that fund the manpower and equipment.

Mayor/Chief Donnie Jobe will lead a special meeting at the Bromley city building on Monday at 7:00 p.m. 

"It's more of less a disagreement on numbers," Jobe told The River City News a couple weeks ago when questions were raised about the number of runs Crescent Springs-Villa Hills makes into Bromley. "I told my members not to speak about it."

Bromley does not offer advanced life support (ALS) services, and instead contracts with a private company called Rural Metro, for approximately $10,000 per year. If Bromley's fire department and Rural Metro are unable to respond, a mutual aid agreement triggers a response from Crescent Springs-Villa Hills. At some point, the number of calls responded to by Crescent Springs-Villa Hills prompted that department's chief, Jeff Wendt, to write a letter to the Bromley City Council, as well as Kenton County leadership. 44 calls into Bromley equate to 40 percent of all ambulance calls in that city, Wendt said, "much more than what is expected under the Kenton County Mutual Aid Agreement."

In his letter, Wendt wrote, "The Crescent Springs-Villa Hills Fire Department is funded by tax monies from the two cities that we contract with to protect. The average rate for a home owner is $.75 per $1,000 assessed value for providing ambulance coverage. The cost of providing an advanced life support ambulance continues to rise. Medications, fuel, vehicle maintenance and staffing all continue to increase. As Chief it is my responsibility to be fiscally responsible to the residents of Crescent Springs and Villa Hills. Providing free service to the City of Bromley is not in the best interest of our partners."

In an interview with The River City News, Wendt stated that he was not permitted to speak at the previous Bromley City Council meeting when he had hoped to address the problem. In his letter, he said that Bromley would be billed $600 per call until a proper arrangement can be made.
 
"Right now it's business as usual," Wendt said at the time. "Obviously we're not going to put the citizens of Bromley in jeopardy. If they get a call, its business as usual until we can resolve it."

It is possible that Monday's special meeting is about ALS service and the possibility that Bromley would formally contract with Crescent Springs-Villa Hills rather than Rural Metro, though a formal vote would likely not take place until a regular council meeting, the next of which is scheduled for Wednesday.

"We don't have to be ALS service," Jobe said. The mayor/chief also disputes the numbers presented by Wendt, arguing that the number is closer to 16 runs into the city. Data from Erlanger Dispatch (which is used by Crescent Springs, though Bromley and neighboring Ludlow use Kenton County Dispatch) detail the 44 runs, all of which did not end with a patient being transported. That's where the discrepancy in numbers comes into play.

"Everyone is in agreement that it is excessive," Jobe conceded.

The Ludlow Fire Department has also made a formal offer to provide Bromley with ALS/EMS services but Chief Rob Dreyer told The River City News that he has not been contacted by Bromley's committee to further explore the possibility. He argues that Ludlow's firehouse is one mile from Bromley while Crescent Springs-Villa Hills is 3.5 miles away. Dreyer said that while he is from outside of Ludlow, he is aware of an historic rivalry between Bromley and Ludlow and cites that as a possibility for Bromley's seeming unwillingness to contract with Ludlow.

Ludlow's offer was for 6 months of service at a price tag of $10,600, Dreyer said. That would cover the remainder of the fiscal year, and then in 2016-17, the price would simply be multiplied by two to provide service for a full 12 months. 

Meanwhile, another issue is nagging the Bromley Volunteer Fire Department. 

The Kentucky Fire Commission, which is part of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), and which provides training to firefighters in the state, is looking into whether the volume of names turned in by Bromley as trained firefighters who are part of the department is "legitimate".

"There were some names on the roster where the individuals were not on the fire department," said Bruce Roberts, division director at the Kentucky Fire Commission, who is handling the examination. Some of the people whose names appeared on the roster have been contacted and signed affidavits that they were not part of the Bromley Volunteer Fire Department, Roberts stated. 

Here is why that matters: To receive state aid, 50 percent of the members listed on a fire department's roster has to have 20 hours of training for that year, Roberts explained. Therefor, it is possible that over the past few years Bromley has received more state aid than it is entitled to.

"What I do is I look at each training roster that is sent to us at the end of the year and I check and verify that with the training and the names that are on the roster," Roberts told The River City News. The examination is looking back at least two years. Roberts' findings will be presented to the board of the Fire Commission which will then make a determination on how to proceed.

Roberts said that he does not believe that Jobe forged any names on the roster.

"There are people on the roster that are lifetime members and they don't want them on the roster anymore, only active members," Jobe said of the state examination. "When they came in, they knew these names have been on the roster forever. This isn't something I did. It is something the previous chief did and somebody started a stink over it."

Mayor/Chief Jobe also said that he does not believe that there is any funding at stake. "If there is, we'll look at it then," he said.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo via Bromley Fire Department Facebook page