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China Grove council outlines interim fire chief’s role

CHINA GROVE — Two fire departments are now officially sharing Mike Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, the current fire chief of Bostian Heights, began serving as China Grove’s interim fire chief last year after former chief Jeff Gledhill abruptly resigned. On Tuesday, the China Grove Town Council made Zimmerman’s interim role official.

As a part of its consent agenda, the town council approved a resolution with the Bostian Heights Fire Department, which outlined Zimmerman’s interim role. The resolution listed nine separate points for Zimmerman’s interim role, including a monthly salary reimbursement to Bostian Heights.

Town Manager Ken Deal said he and Zimmerman talked about the resolution before its formal approval on Tuesday. Deal said crafting a formal resolution that outlined Zimmerman’s role was “just good business.”

The resolution clarifies that Zimmerman will remain the full-time chief of Bostian Heights Fire Department during his role as interim chief of China Grove. When either fire department, China Grove or Bostian Heights, is called to the scene of an incident, Zimmerman will act as chief for both, but “shall assign personnel based upon the location of the emergency event,” according to the resolution

China Grove will also pay Bositan Heights $2,500 per month until Zimmerman is no longer chief, the resolution states. The monthly payment will be used to reimburse Bostian Heights for half of Zimmerman’s salary.

“His actual work time will be split equally between both departments,” the resolution states.

As for hiring a full-time China Grove chief in the future, the resolution doesn’t specify a particular date for the end of Zimmerman’s term. However, it gives China Grove the authority to terminate Zimmerman’s interim title at any time. Bostian Heights Fire Department or Zimmerman will also be able to terminate the agreement at any time, but only with a 60-day notice.

If Zimmerman is unavailable to act as chief, Bostian Heights would appoint an acting chief for both departments, the resolution states.

The final point in the resolution briefly addresses a potential merger of the two departments, but clarifies that the agreement passed Tuesday isn’t a merger.

“It is understood that China Grove and Bostian Heights FD are in discussion regarding the future coordination of the fire departments, but this agreement shall not be deemed to be an agreement going forward between China Grove and Bostian Heights FD for any sort of partnership, joint venture, merger or other combination,” it states.

The resolution is an official document placing Zimmerman in the interim position, which he has served in since late October. Gledhill never confirmed a reason on the record for his resignation. However, a state inspection of the department discovered that records and paperwork may not have been well organized during Gledhill’s tensure. In December, the inspections supervisor for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, A.C. Daniels, said at least two instances existed when the department didn’t respond to calls with enough personnel. Daniels said China Grove’s fire department would be put on probation, which doesn’t affect its fire rating. At the time, Daniels said inadequate documentation of an event would’ve resulted in an identical finding, even if the department responded appropriately.

Since Zimmerman took over in an interim role, China Grove Mayor Don Bringle said, the department has been more organized and morale is higher overall.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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