Fire chief appointed in E. Spencer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
EAST SPENCER ó Members of the East Spencer Board of Alderpersons appointed a new fire chief Monday night, filling a position that had been vacant for more than a year.
The appointment came during the board’s regularly-scheduled monthly meeting.
With little discussion, board members voted to give the job to Darin Dearth. The appointment follows a meeting last month where several members of the fire department pleaded with alderpersons for Dearth’s appointment. They said he had the overwhelming support of the town’s firefighters.
Dearth, 28, works full time as a deputy with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. He and his wife, Nena Jacobs-Dearth, have one daughter, Tiffin Jacobs.
Dearth got his start as a firefighter in 1995 when he joined the Rockwell Rural Fire Department. He has over the years worked for a handful of departments, including serving as an East Spencer firefighter from 2001 to 2004.
“I’d held every rank except chief,” Dearth said Monday night shortly after his appointment.
He said he hopes to build camaraderie among members of his department, and work to improve mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments.
“I’m looking to try and bring it back to teamwork,” Dearth said of the cohesiveness he hopes to develop among East Spencer firefighters.
In another matter involving the fire department, board members decided not to purchase a 2008 HME firetruck being sold by First Class Fire Apparatus of Monroe. The possibility of purchasing that truck had also been discussed at length during a meeting last month.
Firefighters said the truck ó a demonstrator with about 10,000 miles ó was offered the town for $296,000. A similar truck, they said, would cost between $375,000 and $400,000.
At Monday’s meeting, Dearth outlined a couple of financing options, both of which would involve 12 annual payments.
It was paying for the truck that caused board members to decide against the purchase.
Alderperson Barbara Mallett said that by the time the new truck was paid for, including finance charges, the town would have paid almost $500,000 for the vehicle.
“It’s almost like another bond,” Mallett said.
She said she sympathized with the plight of firefighters, who said their current trucks are badly outdated. But asked about the matter, firefighters admitted the town still owes 10 more annual payments of more than $14,000 on one of their existing trucks.
Mallett and other board members said they’d like town officials to look to see if grants aren’t available to help finance a new truck.
“I know we need the truck,” Mallett said. “But I think we really need to look at where we’re going.
“Someone’s just got to help us.”
Mayor Erma Jefferies agreed.
“I’d love to see it,” she said of the purchase of a new firetruck. “I’d love to see East Spencer rolling in something new. But us incurring that much debt without facing a tax increase is probably not likely.”
Dearth said he’d accept whatever decision board members made, though he cautioned that because of new emission standards, the price of firetrucks in 2010 are expected to increase by $40,000.
Dearth also warned board members that another municipality was interested in the truck that East Spencer was inspecting, and said it’d likely be sold to someone else by the end of the week.
“Another deal will come along,” Jefferies replied.
Dearth said Tim Steinmetz, a representative of First Class Fire Apparatus had brought the HME truck to East Spencer earlier Monday to give firefighters the opportunity to take it for a ride and try it out.
When board members opted not to pursue the truck’s purchase, Steinmetz asked to address the group.
He spoke for a couple of minutes, bashing without letup East Spencer’s current array of firetrucks. At one point, Steinmetz said the town’s fire department was “on the brink of disaster.”
But longtime board member John Rustin eventually interrupted Steinmetz and asked him to be quiet.
“You’re putting us down too strong,” Rustin said, noting that if Steinmetz wanted to say what he was saying, he should have first brought up the matter with Town Administrator Donnie Jones, and not aired his words at a public meeting.
Jefferies and other board members agreed, several noting that Steinmetz was a salesman and he apparently thought he stood a better chance of making a sale by running down East Spencer’s current equipment.
“We’ve got to do like the football players,” Jefferies said. “We’ve got to step back and punt.”