HAZELWOOD, Mo. – This election day is a big test for the citizen leaders of the Robertson Fire Protection District. In a historic election last November, they got rid of the old fire district board, accusing them of wasting taxpayer money and helping to push the City of Hazelwood toward bankruptcy.
The citizens promised voters that they would cut perks, save money, and help Hazelwood’s finances by cutting the fire district’s costs. The citizens ran for and won the seats held by the old board.
Jennifer Guyton, who was elected as the fire district president, is one of those up for re-election. She said there is a good reason taxpayers should keep her and her supporters on board.
“Well, because we have done nothing but incredible changes for the district, for the taxpayers, and for the community in general,” Guyton said.
She said they have cut the salary of board members from about $900 per month to around $600. Guyton also said they had eliminated free health insurance for board members.
She said they had saved more than $380,000 so far. However, everyone is on her side. The firefighters’ union is supporting her opponent, Coren Anderson.
“We are supporting the other candidate, Coren Anderson. We believe she is an engaged resident who has a passion for bringing quality service to the residents,” said John Duffy, district vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665.
He said there are several reasons for opposing the current fire district leaders.
“We’re concerned a little bit about some of their rash decisions and how that could lead to a decrease in public safety,” Duffy said. “They decided to cancel the lawfully negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This contract allows the district not only to attract and retain qualified firefighters and paramedics, it also gives them the tools they need to give the best quality service to their residents.”
Guyton said the new board had good reason for questioning that agreement. She said it would have tied her and her new team’s hands.
“There was a collective bargaining agreement that was signed by the old board, the old fire chief, and the firefighter’s union the night before the election,” Guyton said. “That collective bargaining agreement was meant to stop the changes that the voters wanted.”
The City of Hazelwood has said the millions that it’s paying the Robertson Fire Protection District are driving it to bankruptcy. Guyton said her group is working on a way to throw Hazelwood a financial lifeline.
Voters will decide on Tuesday whether Guyton and her group deserve more time.