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Batesville Public Safety Committee meets again on fire department residency requirements

Article by Teisha Bagwell, White River Now

The question remains unanswered. 

Should firefighters, both full-time and part-pay (volunteers) be required to live in the Batesville city limits to serve?

The question stems from the lack of a written policy. For many years, it was an unspoken rule that those interested in serving on the city fire department, full-time or part-pay, must reside within city limits — or at least that is what has always been enforced.

Many opinions and bits of data were shared at the Tuesday night meeting of the Batesville Public Safety Committee.

“Ultimately, my statement is that I don’t feel we have a residency issue. I feel we have a staffing issue because with greater staff…(we’re) less dependent on people to come in on their day off to cover,” said committee member and Batesville City Councilmember Scott Fredricks.

Since the last meeting, Batesville Fire Chief Brent Gleghorn collected opinion letters from a majority of the part-pay personnel. Ten out of 12 personnel submitted letters, and the opinions were split with seven in favor of not changing the current unspoken rule, two in favor of the change, and one letter was seemingly unclear on a stance.

“I still, as the head of the department believe that at this point in time it would be a mistake to make that change…I do believe that in the future if there was money for additional staffing, an increase in our staffing…this would be something that the city should consider in the future,” Chief Gleghorn shared in regards to opening up the residency boundaries. 

Ultimately, it’s the Batesville City Council that will make the final decision whether an ordinance or resolution. 

“I would suggest that any recommendation we make whether it’s to keep it as it is, each one is only for a year, I think we oughta re-visit it [each year]. I would support a recommendation now to not change it until the end of 2020,” Chief Gleghorn said. 

The Public Safety Committee will address the city council at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. on how to appropriately proceed on the issue of firefighter residency.

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