Positive Changes at Antonia Fire District

3 Nov

Fire Protection Districts are normally not interesting, but a lot of good changes have been made lately at the Antonia district, which encompasses the Antonia, Barnhart, Imperial, Otto, and Seckman areas. As happens with any positive, reform-minded, out-of-the-ordinary changes in government, all kinds of discontent has been aroused. Let’s review the happenings at Antonia:

  • Residential fire inspections are no longer required. This is because the county already does inspections. Some commenters said it’s going to be “buyer beware” now without these inspections. Well, it already is buyer beware when you buy a home. That’s why you hire someone to do a home inspection. Board member Preston Haglin (who deserves the credit for these changes) said Antonia had a reputation for abusive handling of inspections. It is because of a new state law that fire inspections are no longer necessary.
  • Residential burn permits are no longer required. The state DNR has open burning guidelines. Besides, who really gets a permit when they burn stuff? Come on, seriously. People at the Sept. 17 board meeting listed a few examples of burns gone wrong. Did the permit requirement prevent these fires? Clearly it did not.
  • Personnel changes that include buyouts for three supervisors and eliminating some higher ranks. The district previously had 18 uniformed employees, of whom only six were firefighters. Eliminating excess administrators should be at the top of the list for any elected official. The district is also looking at instituting mandatory retirement ages of 60 for firefighters and 65 for chiefs and office staff. Clearly, firefighting is not a job for people of advanced age.
  • Planning to institute a monthly stipend for retired firefighters to use to purchase health insurance. This is much more efficient for the district than buying insurance for the retirees, and encourages the retirees to shop around for a plan.
  • A reduction in the tax levy to $1.0838 from last years $1.0860.
  • One item that received a brief mention in the Sept. 26 Leader was plans to potentially build a firehouse that would be shared with two adjoining districts. This is a great idea. The Rock Ambulance District is currently building a facility at Highway M and St. Luke’s Church Road. This is 0.9 miles west of the Antonia firehouse at M and Moss Hollow Road. While this is an ambulance district and not a fire district, it seems like there could have been some coordination there to save money for both districts.

Leading the merry band of protesters is former Antonia board member Fran Newkirk (see her note at the bottom of this page). She is active in local Democratic politics, now serving as a party committeewoman for Imperial Township and having run unsuccessfully for the nomination for the county council seat for district 4. She was defeated in 2012 in a bid for re-election to the Antonia board after serving for 15 years.

One issue that I’d like to know more about is the status of union benefits for district firefighters. The Leader states that retirees can receive their pensions at age 55. St. Louis has apparently been allowing firefighters to retire earlier than that (along with other abuses). It would be good to know how much Antonia firefighters contribute to their retirement. Antonia’s salaries don’t seem to be too high ($53,000 for battalion chiefs).

Another area fire board has made news. In November of last year, former state senator Jane Cunningham was elected to the Monarch Fire board. She beat failed GOP state treasurer candidate Cole McNary, who threw his lot in with the unions in that race. Cunningham has been working to reform things in the district, which has become bloated due to union domination. Cunningham cites similar reforms that were done in the Mehlville Fire district, which made big cuts in workers compensation costs.

Antonia is not in the dire situation that Monarch is. But as with almost any governing body, spending, personnel, and procedures can become excessive or out-of-whack due to ideology, lax oversight, and public inattention. There is always room for someone to come in and question “the way we do things here.” Those people usually ruffle feathers, but they should be thanked and supported.

Two Antonia board seats will be up for election in April 2014. Given the anger of Newkirk et. al, they will probably look to fill these seats with their own board members. Therefore, we will need small-government types to stand up and run for the board, so the recent changes can be preserved instead of overturned.

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4 Responses to “Positive Changes at Antonia Fire District”

  1. wrongonred November 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    I tried to read Newkirk’s note, but found it difficult as it appears to be in some ancient dialect closely related to English, yet where words are spelled phonetically instead of grammatically, and sentences are no longer required to have both a subject and a predicate, and punctuation seems to just be randomly chosen and inserted instead of following the rules of English grammar. I think they call it “illiteracy”. I wonder if her and Charles Huey grew up in the same place where this dialect is common? It makes me wonder if Newkirk even has a high school education, or if she let Charles create her LinkedIn Page?

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    • wrongonred November 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      Just had another thought, perhaps she was Faulkner’s ghostwriter for The Sound and the Fury? She writes just like Benjy spoke.

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  2. Fran Newkirk April 13, 2014 at 6:43 am #

    This article was a well written piece of bias material. Perhaps, someone should have researched the issue from all sides. I do not think that I am totally right on all subjects however, I do research and attend the meetings and pay attention to what is happening in the community were I live. I will concede one thing we are all entitled to our own opinion.

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  3. Fran Newkirk April 13, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Wrongred, I can appreciate your opinion even if it comes from a very different extreme right wing location. It is important to note that I don’t care what you say about me. What does bother me is that you associate me with another person that I briefly know and your need to use derogatory remarks on people that you do not know. Also your need to hide behind a miss spelled name and figure head of the devil. Please do not bother to reply as I won’t be looking forward to hearing from you.

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