The new Bee County fire marshal has played this county like a string fiddle. From the very get-go more than two months ago, it was published that his intentions were to turn his part-time contract job into a full-time-with-benefits job at taxpayers’ expense.
For some 20 odd years, we had a fire marshal who did his job without objections from anyone. He performed the same duties and inspections when called upon to do so, and no one ever complained. For one, when he did do an inspection, he charged a mere $10, but if told that the inspection was not needed, he would not threaten with criminal charges, because he understood that these inspections were to be done only when requested. For the last 20 years, not one business has burned to the ground or had an issue with fire safety, because most businesses already have their own safety/hazard inspections performed by a service of their choice and, most of the time, at no cost.
Now, this new fire marshal, who needs employment because he left his previous job for a part-time job, has “confused” the Bee County Commissioners Court to the point the majority voted to pass the buck to the city council and let them decide if he should be hired on a full-time basis at taxpayer expense or direct him to follow the state and Bee County fire marshal guidelines and perform inspections only “when requested” or terminate his contract, which can be terminated with a 30-day written notice for no reason at all.
I can’t help but question Commissioner DeWitt’s line of thinking when he read the state guidelines for fire and safety inspections from instructions he received during training in San Antonio less than a week ago. And he read, for the record, that these inspections are done “when requested,” but instead of supporting the businesses, he chose to side with a person who has already falsely charged more than 60 businesses in this town for services at an average of $75 or more for a total of over $4,000. And that money didn’t go into the general fund of the county to support county business... It went right into his pocket to pay for his business and personal expenses. By allowing this, it essentially sets up a scenario that if the fire marshal needs to make a car payment, all he has to do is pick out five or six businesses, perform an inspection and demand payment or face the threat of criminal charges.
Now, it is up to the city council to tell the commissioners court what to do. If the city council members will just read the county fire marshal guidelines, the state fire marshal guidelines and, if needed, call the state fire marshal, who will inform them that even the state only performs these fire safety inspections “when requested,” I have no doubt that they will make the right decision.
Businesses don’t need the burden of another tax to shoulder.