Liberty fire chief tries to solve problems

A Liberty trustee characterized the main fire station as a mess.
LIBERTY -- Fire Chief Robert Catchpole's job is on the line.
Township Trustee Jack Simon said he and township administrator Darlene St. George met with Catchpole a month ago, giving him three months to straighten out the department.
"He has three months to straighten up the department or we advised him to step down," said Simon, chairman of the three-member board of trustees.
Howland chief: Catchpole has been working with Howland's chief George Brown to straighten out the problems.
"Bob Catchpole is a good man, but he lacks leadership," Simon said, adding the chief has made progress in the past month.
"We're struggling a little bit," Catchpole said. "It's great being chief, but it has disadvantages."
The chief said he went to Brown for help because Brown is knowledgeable and gets things done.
Catchpole has been on the department 15 years, served as a captain for a year and was named chief in February 1998.
Simon said Catchpole was given the warning because the main fire station on Logan Avenue "was literally a mess."
Also, he pointed out, the chief has difficulty getting work done around the station, such as spreading mulch under bushes or removing fallen tree limbs.
Firefighters assigned to the ambulance crew, for example, questioned the wisdom of getting dirty doing that type of work, then getting called out on an emergency to provide sterile medical treatment.
Assigning tasks: Catchpole said the station work eventually got done, although the issue of what tasks members of the department are required to do when not on a call remains unsettled.
Firefighters will have to be forced to do the work in the future and perhaps use the road department, volunteers or hire somebody, the chief said.
"Do we hire them to be janitors or handymen?" Catchpole queried.
The chief said he is working to update job descriptions in the department to help resolve the issue.
He pointed out that firefighters do cut grass at the township's two stations and wash floors, in addition to cleaning equipment.
Catchpole said he doesn't have any animosity toward the trustees and St. George."I have to perform and I realize it. We are moving forward. Whether its enough remains to be seen," he said.
Perhaps, he noted, trustees might want an outside agency to conduct a review of the fire department similar to that done with the police department, reorganize it, or give it new leadership.