MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA)– Disagreements between the city and the fire department caused an interim chief to step down from his job. After 6 months of service Kris Phipps announced Thursday he was resigning. Firefighters say the city is putting its agenda ahead of the safety of the community. The President of Mattoon Firefighters Association Bart Owen says Phipps and others felt they had moral and ethical obligations to help the community, but those standards were not being met because of the city.
Owen says there were high acuity calls they received. High acuity calls are for things like heart attacks and strokes. However, the city did not let them respond to them. Firefighters say the city did this so they could reduce the number of calls in order to cut down on workers and costs, and they felt those decisions were putting people in danger.
Phipps told WCIA, “Public safety agencies must work together as a team,” and “After six months on the job, he felt the city’s position on public safety was not something he could compromise on.” Phipps said he has thoroughly enjoyed working with the fire department. Owen and other firefighters say they stand behind Phipp’s decision.
The city administrator says there were disagreements in what services the city is able to provide and afford. The city is in the process of seeing what can be done to fill the fire chief’s role.
Last week Mattoon’s police chief said his department needs more officers and the fire department has too many. The interim fire chief resigned the next day. Firefighters told us they have 23 people on staff. By contract, they should have 30. They are short staffed and working a lot of overtime.