Fire District board approves new bylaws, debate vehicle decals

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 9:32 p.m. CDT; updated 8:54 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 17, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Protection District board passed new bylaws Wednesday night aimed at avoiding another federal audit and debated the proper way to mark Fire District vehicles.

The new bylaws mandate that the district undergo an independent annual audit of its finances. This requirement was not included as part of the previous bylaws.

The Fire District ran into some controversy following an audit by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Inspector General in the summer of 2009. The audit questioned the district's use of Missouri Task Force One deployments to areas affected by hurricanes and claimed the district had overpaid itself for the deployments by more than a half million dollars.

The newly adopted bylaws also set a more specific budget process for the Fire District. Under the new bylaws, the board is required to adopt a budget for the upcoming year no later than August 31. The previous bylaws did not set a specific date for budget approval.

The board has not approved new bylaws since 1992.

During the meeting, the board also discussed the proper way to mark official Fire District vehicles.

Fire District Chief Scott Olsen said the Internal Revenue Service requires that vehicles must be clearly marked and that employees who use district vehicles must be on call for duty. To comply with the mandate, Olson said, all Fire District vehicles were outfitted with emergency lights and official license plates.

Shelley Dometrorch, board secretary, said she thinks Fire District vehicles also need to be marked with large decals since they are routinely used in emergency situations.

Olsen disagreed, saying the large decals would discourage employees from using the vehicles for personal errands, which would cut down on the number of people who could respond to an emergency call at a moment's notice.

Members of the public who see marked Fire District cars in restaurant parking lots for example, Olsen said, might not approve of the vehicles being used for personal errands.

While Dometrorch agreed that employees could sometimes use the vehicles for personal errands as long as they remained on call, she thought the decals wouldn't hurt anything.

David Griggs, board chairman, said he supports marking the cars, but said he would like the markings to be aesthetically pleasing. The board voted to ask local design firms to come up with designs for a decal for Fire District vehicles.

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