Friday, November 22, 2013
Town hall meeting slated to address GVFD questions raised by residents


Butch Meriwether

Butch's Brew

I have basically remained silent on the various threads on Facebook and various media outlet comment pages regarding questions and accusations raised about the Golden Valley Fire District.

I finally made a decision it was time for me to step forward to help solve verbal infighting amongst various people. Let's get out in the open the questions and accusations of alleged misdoing, mishandling, innuendos and/or spending of GVFD funds by fire district officials. It's time to end this feeding frenzy before more damage is done and more reputations are needlessly trashed.

No, I am not the person who is going to provide the answers to questions and address any innuendos or even represent the GVFD in this matter.

Darn, there's been even misinformation being insinuated in regards to me. Yep, someone was telling and emailing others that I was issued turnouts (firefighter protective gear) so I could enter a burning building. That can be no further from the truth. The old turnouts I was issued, along with a yellow helmet that says photographer on its side, was so law enforcement personnel on a vehicle accident scene and firefighters would know I was not just there for some gruesome reason. I think all will agree that I've done a pretty good job of photographing the GVFD firefighters in action and putting a positive spin on the GVFD and publicizing their good deeds.

As most realize, I conducted a very successful non-partisan forum when everyone was running for office during the last election cycle and I honestly believe it was well-received by residents and candidates. Yes, there was one individual in the audience who wanted to continually stand up and make statements instead of asking a questions to the individuals who were running for office. I finally had to ask the person to ask a question, sit down or leave - I gave him that choice. I hated to do that, but I believe I had to maintain control over the event or it would have drifted in to a free-for-all and verbal slam fest.

I decided to approach Golden Valley Fire District Board of Director Chairman Mark Vanik and asked him if he thought the other board of directors would be amenable to participating in a "town hall meeting" moderated by me in order to have some of the innuendos, accusations, incorrect statements and/or possible truisms answered and/or addressed by them.

Chairman Vanik thought it was a good idea and placed the town hall meeting topic on the November GVFD meeting agenda. After a short discussion, the board of directors gave me the thumbs up to hold the event at the GVFD Public Safety Training Center, 423 S. Colorado Road, Golden Valley, during the month of January. The Public Safety Training Center is the largest venue available in Golden Valley, and all that space might be needed if people show up like I think they will.

Before anyone starts tossing out innuendos about me, I believe I can be an unbiased moderator even though I am currently serving as the volunteer photographer (a non-paid position). Most realize I wear many hats and write stories and take photographs for other subjects and organizations besides the fire district.

After the board of directors agreed to allow me to conduct the town hall meeting, I sent out a letter via email to each of them asking what specific four dates during January would be good to them. After receiving responses, a decision was made to host the event at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8. In addition to the board of directors, Fire Chief Thomas O'Donohue, Assistant Fire Chief Ted Martin and Battalion Chief Dave Martin have been invited to participate in the event.

Some might wonder why I scheduled the town hall meeting so far off in the future. Well, taking into consideration Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays are between now and the end of this year, I didn't think anyone would want to attend during the last part of 2013. I also needed time to receive questions from Facebook bloggers and people who would read my column announcing the event.

Needless to say, I am soliciting questions in advance from everyone who wants to submit them, so if needed, the GVFD personnel can research the answers instead of saying, "I'll get back to you on that," during the town hall meeting. I will also allow questions from the audience floor, but will limit them to one question from each individual until such time everyone has a chance to ask a question. Then, depending upon time restrictions, someone who had previously asked a question will be allowed to ask another one.

I also will not allow any one panel member to have their answers run on like someone was attempting to "school" or "teach" anyone. They too will be limited to addressing the question at hand and not drifting off onto different subjects.

All questions from residents can be submitted to me in advance via (the email address I use for my online blog on the Daily Miner's website).

I'll do my best to have the town hall meeting well publicized on the local radio stations and in the local newspapers in addition to the various social media outlets so no one can say they didn't know about it. Additionally, I will send an invitation to all of the various local media outlets and encourage them to attend the event.

So, what do all of you think? I am hopeful that all concerned citizens, especially those who reside within the GVFD boundaries, will decide to submit questions in advance. I am also hopeful everyone will decide to attend the town hall meeting in order to have all (I hope) of their questions and/or accusations responded to and answered or addressed to their satisfaction.
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