“For Al to allude in a public meeting that something is not on the up and up between Craig Fire & Safety, myself, city council and the fire board is not fair to me. He likes to think perception is more important than reality, but that’s not the facts.”
— Byron Willems, Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board president, about issues raised by Craig resident Al Cashion during Tuesday’s Craig City Council meeting
On Tuesday Craig resident, and Craig Daily Press contributor, Al Cashion appeared before Craig City Council in an effort to incite some kind of reaction about the public’s perception of the Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board’s fire tower project and the way a site plan was unanimously approved by city council members without public comment.
But Cashion received no response after his 18-minute diatribe.
Fire board president Byron Willems on Thursday addressed some of the issues raised by Cashion during Tuesday night’s meeting and explained why city council members remained silent.
“City council didn’t address it (the fire tower) and they shouldn’t have addressed it,” Willems said. “That’s not the place for (Cashion) to talk about the project in the first place and that’s what city council tried to tell him.
“It’s not their issue. It’s the fire board’s issue.”
Among some of the issues Cashion raised included concerns about impropriety in how the fire department purchases equipment from Willems’ business, Craig Fire & Safety.
“I step down every time there’s an item up for purchase that pertains to my business,” Willems said. “In addition, when you look at last year’s expenditures, the fire department did 3.4 percent ($20,374.03) of its business with me out of a total of $605,620.37 it spent on equipment in 2011.
“I don’t sell that much to the fire department and I don’t sell anything to do with the fire tower, so I don’t (benefit) from that purchase at all. I also don’t sell fire trucks, which is usually among the fire department’s biggest (annual) purchases.”
Cashion on Tuesday also suggested impropriety in Willems’ role on city council because both the City of Craig and the fire board fund HAZMAT teams.
But Willems said Thursday the amount of business he receives from the city is so insignificant it would be a joke to turn it into an issue.
“For Al to allude in a public meeting that something is not on the up and up between Craig Fire & Safety, myself, city council and the fire board is not fair to me,” Willems said. “He likes to think perception is more important than reality, but that’s not the facts.”
Willems addressed a number of other issues and defended his position as president of the fire board by citing his 23-year career as a firefighter and his experience sitting on numerous state fire boards.
But he closed by stating there is one issue no one seems to be talking about, the fact that this fire tower project is nothing close in size, scope or cost to the fire training center the board proposed to voters in 2002, yet it keeps drawing that comparison from the public.
“That was a huge training complex that was going to cost $4 to $5 million in 2002 dollars,” Willems said. “This tower that we’re building, its footprint could fit inside my business four times.
“At the end of the day we (the fire board) have a responsibility to train our firefighters to the highest level and that’s the next step with building this tower.”
Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org