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TFPD appointments defeated

By Randy Pierce
T-T Contributor

Two new proposed three-year appointments to the board of the Troy Fire Protection District have been voted down by the Madison County Board Government Relations Committee after a discussion about the suitability of those candidates and one of the two individuals who would be removed.

In a continuance of Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler’s suggestions concerning a replacement on that board for incumbent Ryan Cunningham, the name of Rob Hancock was brought forth for consideration at that meeting. 

The discussion of this matter opened when the government relations committee chairman, Stacey Pace of Troy, shared the contents of e-mail correspondence from Steve Lynn, president of the TFPD Board, who was unable to attend this meeting because of employment obligations.

In that message, Lynn stated, “It is clear that Mr. Prenzler continues to try to undermine the cohesiveness and the productivity of the Troy Fire Protection District” by removing Cunningham from it and replacing him with someone else.

“Mr. Cunningham brings a level of objectivity and professionalism to this board,” Lynn’s statement went on. “Removing him would be irresponsible. It is clear that Mr. Prenzler has no regard for the work the board has done over the past 15 months and continues to promote controversy.”

In addressing the second appointment, replacing Kevin Byrne, who Pace and others have said wishes to discontinue serving on the TFPD Board, Lynn stated the individual brought forward by Prenzler, Darren Reeves, is a current fire fighter paid on a per-call basis which therefore “creates a conflict of interest based on the opinion written by Attorney James Sinclair.”

The terms on the TFPD board for both Cunningham and Byrne expired on May 1. For the 18 fire districts like this one scattered throughout Madison County, the members of their respective boards, appointed similarly to what was discussed here, receive a stipend of between $1000 and $2000 annually depending on the district size.

Reeves would, Lynn added, “have to recuse himself from most items discussed or voted on during the board meetings” including matters which “would directly benefit Mr. Reeves.”

“I can only assume Mr. Prenzler is aware of this conflict of interest but chooses to disregard it,” Lynn said, before concluding, “I ask this committee to dig deeper into Mr. Prenzler’s actions related to the Troy Fire Protection District as I believe he is acting in a manner that is counterproductive to the residents.” 

Committee member Dalton Gray of Troy asked for input regarding, “what the standard is when we have one person who’s doing a good job and their term expires and we have another good person that comes up. It does kind of put us in a tough spot” while a short time later asking, “Is there a reason why we

shouldn’t replace them?”

After further discussion, Prenzler reminded those present that the county board “rejected” his proposed appointment of Alan Secrest to fill the Cunningham fire district seat, saying, “Alan Secrest is quite good. Rob Hancock is the current public works director in the City of Troy. Like Alan Secrest, he probably knows every fire hydrant, everything about the City of Troy.”

After commenting that Hancock is “very well regarded,” Prenzler said this proposed appointee is endorsed by some local Troy officials. 

Subsequently, Pace focused on the boundaries of the fire district actually extending beyond the corporate limits of Troy such as into the area that encompasses all of Jarvis Township and other unincorporated areas.

Committee member Alison Lamothe of Edwardsville said she felt it was important to clarify that the county board did not “reject” Secrest but instead supported his candidacy only if it did not involve removing Cunningham.

Since May, Secrest was presented by Prenzler as a replacement for Cunningham on the TFPD Board but this was voted down more than once at the committee level then again most recently by the full county board in July.

Prenzler, in addressing the Reeves conflict of interest issue, said in the past when he served as TFPD Board president he had stepped down from his duties as a paid fire fighter and would be willing to do so again. 

Madison had questioned whether or not the fire district board members had been “misspending funds or something like that” as a factor in Prenzler’s wanting to make a change in who served in this capacity.

In response, Prenzler said the TFPD board members last year raised its tax levy, something that had not been done when Reeves was its president, the increase being from $1.55 million to $1.7 million, 11.2 per cent. 

“So that’s one thing that matters,” Prenzler said. “Taxes do matter.”

Pace reacted, “I don’t know about that. I will have to look into that. I’ve been unaware of that.”

After Prenzler stated, “There are different opinions on whether that was the right thing or not,” Pace said, the TFPD Board having more pension expenses to supplement could have been a reason for the levy hike.

Another member of the committee, Mike Babcock of Bethalto, directed to Prenzler, “The question was ‘Is Ryan Cunningham doing anything wrong?’”

“We just don’t understand why” replacing Cunningham is being considered, Babcock continued. “Every interaction I’ve had with him and everybody I’ve talked to loves Ryan Cunningham, he’s done a fantastic job. If you say that he’s doing a lousy job, please explain it to us, that way we can go to Ryan and find out if it’s true or not.”

“And if it’s true that what you’re saying about him that he’s doing a bad job, then I’d be more inclined to get rid of him.”

After Babcock referred to the recommendation of Lynn about Cunningham, Prenzler answered this is correct, adding, “but the president speaks for himself.”

Pace interjected the others on the fire district board are all in favor of Cunningham as well, with Prenzler saying, “That’s not true.”

“It’s what I’ve been told,” Pace said.

Following further back-and-forth among those mentioned, Prenzler focused again on the tax levy increase as “one of the key considerations here” while saying he considers Hancock a “fiscal conservative” which is to his favor. 

The committee vote on the appointment of Hancock to replace Cunningham saw Pace, Lamothe, Babcock, Denise Wiehardt and Shawndell Williams voting no while Gray was in support of it. The same negative votes were cast on the Reeves appointment but, for it, Gray chose to abstain. Both are expected to come before the entire Madison County Board on Wednesday, August 16, for a final vote.

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