The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

June 12, 2013

Email about ambulance mechanical problems draws critical response

Union rep concedes he may have jumped the gun with message

ANDERSON — Firefighter Cody Leever wishes he could take back — or rewrite — an email he sent earlier this week to City Council members complaining about mechanical and maintenance problems with city ambulances.

Leever is the new president of Local 1262 of the International Association of Firefighters. While he raised what many consider legitimate concerns about how much money is available to keep equipment operating properly, his message also contained a threat of political retaliation.

On Monday, Anderson Fire Department was operating with two instead of the usual three ambulances because its primary medic trucks were already sidelined with mechanical troubles, two backup ambulances developed problems, and a third had to be removed from service and decontaminated because it was infested with bedbugs during a run.

"Although these situations could not be controlled by us or our front office, they could be better planned for especially if we had some more maintenance/repair or replacement funding," Leever wrote to City Councilman Anthony Bibbs, D-at large, among others.

Money for equipment repair and replacement historically comes from ambulance fees collected by the city.

That changed last fall as the City Council was working on a solution to avoid nearly two dozen layoffs in the department. To minimize the actual number of layoffs to less than 10, the council took money earmarked for maintenance and applied it to salaries, according to Chief Philip Rogers.

He added that the public was in no danger on Monday. Every emergency call was answered promptly, using private ambulance services if necessary, and repairs on the out-of-service vehicles were completed by Tuesday afternoon, he said.

In addition, he said the department is working on a plan to revamp city ambulance fees. The union is part of that working group.

It was the tone of Leever's message, especially a paragraph near the end when he seemed to threaten Mayor Kevin Smith and members of the City Council with political retaliation if they didn't support firefighter aims that appeared to rub recipients the wrong way.

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