Fire district's future depending on its past

Sunday, January 14, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Reader:

The Missourian's cover story details controversy within the Boone County Fire Protection District that has been unraveling for almost two years now. If you’re a loyal reader (and I’m sure you are), you probably have read about some of the uproar: lawsuits, firings, accounting irregularities, criminal investigations and more. Allegations and counter-allegations galore.

As Missourian reporter Derek Kravitz describes the turmoil, there’s more than one reference to family. Certainly, some of the people now at war with each other were once very close: The chief, Steve Paulsell, was so close to Rob Brown that he walked Brown’s mother down the church aisle during a funeral service for her husband. Paulsell would later fire Brown from the department.

Every family has a certain amount of turmoil. Some could even be called dysfunctional. When should that controversy become public? Or, in other words, why should you care whether there’s a fight within the fire district? After all, no one in or out of the institution is alleging that Boone County’s residents have suffered from inadequate protection.

There’s always a danger of creating stories that read like so much “inside baseball” — stuff of interest or importance to only the players on the field, not the people in the stands.

I don’t believe this story suffers from that problem. There is much at stake for the people of mid-Missouri.

The district is one of the largest in the state and one of the largest volunteer organizations of its kind in the country. It receives more than $3 million of your tax dollars annually to deliver fire and rescue services. In the past, it has been the source of civic pride — who can forget the images of our Task Force One members returning from the World Trade Center after Sept. 11 or from the ruins of the New Orleans area after Katrina?

Its past and present is centered on chief Paulsell. His future hangs in the balance.

I believe Kravitz’s report ties together many of the events you’ve read over the past couple of years and puts them into a larger context in a way that you can glean more insight into the district’s internal struggles.

I just hope the story gets to you.

As I write this on Friday afternoon, the nasty weather is just beginning to hit. My neighbor Mike says he can’t open a metal gate because it’s iced up. The weather predictions are ugly.

Perhaps by the time you read this we’ll all be laughing at how the worst of the forecasts never came true. In the meantime, I’m sure you, like me, planned for the worst. At the Missourian on Friday, managers talked about contingency plans to get the print editions out.

The digital editions are problematic, too, but there’s not much we can do by way of delivery if your power goes out.

There still is a January in Missouri, isn’t there? Stay warm and safe.


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