The salaries of top management and the relationship between Boone County Fire Protection District Chief Steve Paulsell and his assistant Sharon Curry are emerging as the two primary issues in the race for a seat on the district’s board of directors.
Candidates Shelly Dometrorch and Don Farris are competing for a board seat that will be vacated by Myrtle Rapp. Both say they will call for an immediate survey of Fire District salaries and job descriptions if elected to the board.
Some Fire District staff members, volunteers and patrons have complained in recent months that Paulsell’s $177,000 salary is too high and that his relationship with Curry, who is paid about $93,500 per year, is having a negative effect on district operations and morale. Others have said the termination of former employees, including Todd Burke and Bruce Piringer, stemmed from their criticism of Paulsell and Curry.
Dometrorch, owner of a silk screen and embroidery shop, Hoops Unlimited, and a former sheriff’s lieutenant, said she has no preconceived notions about whether the salaries are inappropriate.
“I’ve done salary studies before, and the salaries here need to be compared to like departments in the Midwest and in cities with similar living costs,” she said. “Right now I really have no idea otherwise. I would like to get on the board to get actual facts.”
Farris has a similar view and said everything about Fire District personnel should be examined.
“There has been discussion about the level of salary, and a procedure for dealing with the employees and their salaries have to be followed,” Farris spokesman Mark Farnen said. “Don is not going to single out an individual and pre-judge, but assure that it is something that will be reviewed.”
Dometrorch said she found that personnel matters are the greatest concern of Fire District residents.
“The thing I hear the most is that there needs to be a change,” Dometrorch said. “If there is a situation that would present a problem to the Fire District, it needs to be dealt with.”
Farnen said he and Farris have heard similar concerns but don’t believe they are key issues.
“These issues are something on the minds of everyone, but the long-term viability of the fire department and how they do their jobs is the central issue,” Farnen said. “Making these issues the platform is the worst way to shoot up more flares. It’s politics but not good policy.”
Concerned Citizens of Boone County is a group that was founded because of hostility within the Fire District. Glenda Castrop, a member, said the group will discuss whether to back a candidate at its next meeting.
Farris was invited to attend a meeting or fill out a questionnaire, which he told them he would try to do. Castrop said the group plans to extend the same invitation to Dometrorch.
Castrop said that while her political group has formed no formal opinion, she has some early feelings.
“I’m leaning toward Shelly. She seems more informed and into it,” Castrop said. “Mr. Farris didn’t seem to know what was going on or seem too interested in making changes.”
Farris said he is leaning on his business background as president of Sentinel Lumber and Hardware and co-owner of Bilt-Rite Buildings to separate himself from Dometrorch.
“I’m focusing on the same issues, but my thought is that I have the experience to help with the problems and strengthen the district,” he said.
Dometrorch emphasized her experience in administration and public safety after working for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department for more than 15 years.