HEADLINES
O'FALLON FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT






FIRE DISTRICT PROMOTIONS


(top to bottom) Rick Miller, Darren Daly, Brian Moore and Jeff Smith.

February 12, 2016 - O'Fallon Fire Protection District

O'FALLON, MO. - A very busy Board meeting tonight. Chairman Bill Laughlin swore in 2 newly promoted officers Rick Miller as Battalion Chief and Darren Daly as Captain. Bill also swore new hired Brian Moore in as Assistant Chief of Administrative Operations/Community Relations, and Jeff Smith as Fire Fighter.

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




FIREFIGHTERS BATTLE BLAZE AT ST. CHARLES COUNTY TATTOO PARLOR

April 30, 2015 - KTVI BY DANIELLE SCRUGGS

ST. LOUIS - Firefighters battled a blaze Thursday morning at tattoo parlor in St. Charles County. The fire started shortly before 4:15a.m. at Fine Line Body Art Tattoo located near the corner of Terra Lane at Bryan Road. Fire crews from three separate departments arrived to find the building engulfed in flames. According to Chief Tom Vineyard, the fire started in the rear of the shop and extended to the attic.

No one was inside at the time.

The fire is still under investigation.

More on KTVI story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




APPEALS COURT REJECTS EX-O'FALLON, MO., FIRE CHIEF'S BID FOR SEVERANCE PAY


Photo by St. Louis Post Dispatch

April 3, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Mark Schlinkmann

O'FALLON, MO. - A Missouri Court of Appeals panel has rejected former Fire Chief Mike Ballmann's effort to require the O'Fallon Fire Protection District to give him $118,000 in severance pay.

The decision Tuesday, which upheld a ruling by St. Charles County Circuit Judge Ted House, was issued amid the final days of Ballmann's campaign for a seat on the board of directors of the district.

The ruling said the severance arrangement and those for another plaintiff were void because the district didn't authorize them by a formal board vote recorded in the official minutes. Also suing was Randy Sanders, a former division chief with the district.

"Other evidence of the board's discussion and approval cannot overcome this requirement," the three-judge appeals panel said.

Ballmann and Sanders had said the severance packages were referred to in other board minutes before the contracts were executed.

Neil Bruntrager, the fire district's attorney, said the board is pleased with the decision. "These things have to be open and transparent and they weren't," he said.

Steve Koslovsky, Ballmann and Sanders' attorney, said the two have filed another suit against the district in circuit court, seeking damages for the district's failure to properly document what was first agreed to by the board in 2004.

That was filed in November, a few months after Judge House had issued his ruling on the initial suit.

The district was negligent "by failing to supervise the board secretary to insure that she correctly recorded all official actions of the board," the new suit says.

Ballmann and Sanders were forced to resign last year, several months after they and three other district officials filed the suit to ensure they'd get severance pay if eventually fired in a cost-cutting move. The board had voted to terminate the contracts at the end of 2013.

They had been among 10 officers offered buyouts in the fall of 2013 in an effort to trim an organization that Bruntrager, the board attorney, says was too top-heavy.

Ballmann has claimed he was forced out by the firefighters union, Local 2665, in an effort to get officials more favorable to the union's positions.

The disputed contracts for Ballmann and Sanders would have qualified them for more separation pay than they would have gotten in the rejected buyouts. When they finally were ousted, they got no severance, Bruntrager and Ballmann said.

In next week's election, Ballmann is running against incumbent board member William Laughlin.

Laughlin has said it's absurd for someone suing the district to be running for the board that oversees it.

Ballmann says if he is elected, he won't take part in any board discussions on his pending suit. He also has filed a challenge of his ouster with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire

Comments on this article

MISSOURI COURT OF APPEALS EASTERN DIVISION OPINION SUMMARY




FIRE DISTRICT FINISHES 2nd and 3rd IN FIGHT FOR AIR CLIMB

March 29, 2015 - O'Fallon Fire Protection District

ST. LOUIS -This weekend members of the O'Fallon Fire District ran the American Lung Association 2015 Fight for Air Climb.

Congratulations to O'Fallon Firefighter Heather Gump on her 2nd place finish in the female division and Captain Chris Jones on his 3rd place finish in the male division!

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




BATTALION CHIEF RETIRES AFTER 35 YEARS


Battalion Chief Mark Stenger is fourth from left next to Fire Chief Tom Vinyard on his right. Photo by O'Fallon Fire Protection District.

February 24, 2015 -

O'FALLON, MO. - Battalion Chief Mark Stenger is retiring from the O'Fallon Fire Protection District after more than 35 years of service to the community.

Mark will carry out his final shift on March 1, 2015 serving along side his son Adam and nephew Brandon.

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




OUSTED FIRE CHIEF IN O'FALLON, MO., RUNNING FOR FIRE DISTRICT BOARD SEAT


O'Fallon, Mo, Fire Chief Mike Ballmann, center, attends a meeting in 2004 along with other fire chiefs from the area. Photo by Huy Mach, hmach@post-dispatch.com

January 8, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Susan Weich

O'FALLON, MO. - Former Fire Chief Mike Ballmann, who claimed he was forced out by the firefighters union and filed suit against the O'Fallon Fire Protection District, is now vying for a seat on the district board.

Ballmann, 59, announced his candidacy on Wednesday. He is running against incumbent William Laughlin, 39, who is seeking his second four-year term.

Laughlin said it didn't make sense that Ballmann was running for the board.

"It's absurd that somebody would be running for office representing the taxpayers of O'Fallon when they're suing that same district," he said.

Ballmann, a lifelong resident of O'Fallon with 40 years of fire service experience, said he decided to run because he wants to remain involved in some of the projects started under his tenure, like the building of a new firehouse on North Main Street.

"The fire service is really the only thing I know a whole lot about, so I don't want to give that up yet," he said.

Ballmann was one of two top fire district officials who was placed on paid administrative leave in April and given a choice of a buyout offer or being fired.

Afterward, Ballmann spoke out about what he said was too much union involvement in district operations.

The job ultimatum followed a lawsuit Ballmann and four other officials filed over an earlier buyout offer. The suit alleged the offer breached their employment contracts and asked a judge to ensure they'd get severance pay if they were fired in the cost-cutting move.

That suit and two others over Ballmann's departure remain active.

"I'm hoping that those things will be settled by the time the election rolls around," he said. "And if they're not, I wouldn't be able to be part of any of the negotiations or the discussions if I were to win."

Laughlin said Wednesday that while the personnel changes that included Ballmann's termination were difficult, they resulted in a $330,000 annual savings to the district and an improvement in morale.

"We really felt we had too many chiefs, and now we're getting more work done with less people because people know what their responsibilities are," Laughlin said.

Laughlin said that while he had respect for Ballmann's tenure, the district needed a fresh perspective.

The filing period for the board seat runs through Jan. 20. The election is April 7.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire

Comments on this article




ST. CHARLES COUNTY BREAKS GROUND ON NEW FIRE STATION TODAY

Photo of current O'Fallon Fire Protection District Station 1

July 11, 2014 - KMOV

O'FALLON, MO. - St. Charles County breaks ground on a new fire house today.

The O'Fallon Fire Protection District will hold a ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

The new fire station number one is located at 1200 Main, replacing the current station.

The station should be finished in February and is being funded by a voter approved bond issue.

More on KMOV story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




CARPENTER'S UNION, 2 BUSINESSES SUE O'FALLON FIRE DISTRICT OVER BIDDING PROCESS

June 13, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON, MO. - The carpenter's union and two local companies have filed a federal lawsuit against the O'Fallon Fire Protection District over construction of a new $2.9 million firehouse before any work has started.

The suits - one on behalf of the Carpenters Local 57 and Higgins Electric Co., the other on behalf of Demien Construction - claim that the district violated Missouri's bidding statutes.

Attorney Larry Kaplan, who represents the plaintiffs in both cases, said Demien was solicited by district officials to submit a bid because of its good work record, and it was the low bidder, yet it was not awarded the contract.

In the case of Higgins Electric Inc., Kaplan said the company was not selected because the electricians are part of the carpenter's union and are not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, something he said the district claimed belatedly was necessary.

The fire district's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, denied all of the suit's allegations.

"There's nothing about what we did or how we did it that wasn't completely open and transparent," he said. "What this is, is an unfortunate effort to try to get a bid."

Bruntrager said while it is true that Demien's bid was lower than the winner Lamb Construction Co., he said Missouri law does allow for some discretion by board directors. He said the difference in bids was about $30,000, but the district opted to keep taxpayer money in O'Fallon by selecting a local company.

Kaplan said if the district was going to give preference to a local company, it should have stated that in the bid specifications.

"It's not easy to put together a bid for any contractor on a complex project," he said. "So they spend many hours putting together a bid, following all the rules, and then when it comes time to award the bid they said, sorry, we're not going to do it, we're going to give it to the other guy."

As for the claim by Higgins Electric, Bruntrager said that the company was one of the finalists, but it filed suit against the district the day before the bids were awarded.

"Why would be give the bid to a company that was suing us?" he asked.

Kaplan said if the district is claiming that the reason Higgins didn't get the bid is the lawsuit, "that's malarkey."

"These are all politically motivated little districts, and what this really is is a dispute between Local 57 and IBEW Local 1," Kaplan said. "The IBEW wants them to be disqualified on some grounds."

Bruntrager said the reason for the district's preference in unions has to do with a project labor agreement the district adopted in 2011. The agreement requires that any jurisdictional problem get resolved among the business trades without resorting to a picket. The carpenter's union has refused to sign these agreements.

Kaplan called the claim "bogus" and said other unions, like the laborers, also are not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, yet they will be allowed to work on this project.

The suits claim that the companies' rights to due process and freedom of association were violated; each are seeking damages in excess of $300,000.

Bruntrager said groundbreaking on the new station will happen later this month as scheduled, and the suit will not stop construction.

"We're absolutely convinced that we are solid, and we are in the right, and we have absolutely no exposure in this regard," he said.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire

Comments on this article




FORMER FIRE CHIEF OF MONARCH HIRED TO HEAD O'FALLON FIRE DISTRICT

May 10, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON, MO. - Tom Vineyard, the fire chief of the embattled Monarch district who resigned effective today, has been hired as chief of the O'Fallon Fire Protection District.

Vineyard will start his new position on May 19; he will get approximately $107,000 in compensation, the same as former Chief Michael Ballmann, said District Attorney Neil Bruntrager. The salary is a significant pay cut from Vineyard's $133,000 salary in Monarch. Ballmann resigned on Wednesday.

Bruntrager described Vineyard as a progressive thinker who has a good rapport with both the staff and rank-and-file firefighters.

"He enjoys a terrific reputation in the firefighting community," he said. "I think that he is exactly what the district needs."

Meanwhile, the Monarch Fire Protection District has promoted Assistant Chief Cary Spiegel to acting chief. Spiegel is a 37-year veteran of the fire service.

Vineyard had been the chief of the Monarch district since January 2012.

In recent months, Monarch has been embroiled in controversy, pitting union firefighters against board members who had pledged reform.

Controversies have erupted over several issues, including:

- Placing the union logo on pink T-shirts the firefighters wore during October, breast cancer awareness month.

- Disclosure of a plan to line part of the board room with bullet-proof vests for the safety of fire officials.

- The use of a firefighter Twitter account to deliver information that the board said was "skewed and sometimes completely inaccurate."

The O'Fallon Fire Protection District has been marked by its own controversy in recent months.

Ten top officers were offered buyouts last fall in an effort to trim an organization that board members said was top heavy.

Five of the 10 officials, including Ballmann, who were targeted answered the board's request with a lawsuit in early December that asked a judge to ensure they'd get severance pay if they were fired in a cost-cutting move.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story

More Headlines for Ofallon Fire

Comments on this article




O'FALLON FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT CHAIRMAN DEFENDS DECISION TO SUSPEND EMPLOYEES

April 24, 2014 - KTVI

O'FALLON - The O'Fallon Fire Protection District held its first board meeting since suspending the chief and deputy fire chief.

On Monday, the two were placed on administrative leave.

This past fall, these two along with 8 other officers, were offered buyouts.

Five of these officers sued the district, wanting to make sure they'd get severance pay if they were let go.

Since then, two officers left, and to eliminate the final position, the board settled on deputy chief sanders.

As for the chief, board members stated they let him go because they wanted to quote, "go in a different direction."

More on KTVI story

More Headlines for O'fallon Fire




TOP FIRE OFFICIALS IN O'FALLON, MO., PLACED ON PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE

O'Fallon, Mo, Fire Chief Mike Ballmann, center, attends a meeting in 2004 along with other fire chiefs from the area. Photo by Huy Mach, hmach@post-dispatch.com

April 22, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON, MO. - Two top fire officials who filed suit alleging that O'Fallon Fire Protection District breached their employment contracts have been placed on paid administrative leave.

The action against Chief Mike Ballmann and Deputy Chief Randy Sanders took place during a special emergency meeting of the fire board Monday night.

"We are discussing with them the terms and conditions under which they might part ways with the district," said district attorney Neil Bruntrager.

Chief Mike Ballmann and Deputy Chief Randy Sanders were among 10 officers offered buyouts last fall in an effort to trim an organization that Bruntrager said was too top heavy. The goal was to cut three of the 10 positions by Dec. 31.

Five of the 10 officials who were targeted answered the board's request with a lawsuit in early December that asked a judge to ensure they'd get severance pay if they were fired in a cost-cutting move.

Two of the three reductions were met -- one of the spots in the fire prevention bureau was reduced through attrition, and Chief Administrative Officer Scott Avery took the chief's position with the Olivette Fire Department.

That left one position to eliminate, Bruntrager said, and the board recently decided on Sanders'.

Ballmann is being asked to leave because of "a decision to go in a different direction," Bruntrager said. The chief's position would be refilled.

The two officials have until May 12 to make a decision on a termination offer; Bruntrager declined to provide details about it.

Steve Koslovsky, the attorney for Ballmann, Sanders and the other three officers who filed suit, said he viewed the action as a retaliatory act by the board because of the lawsuit.

"It appears now that this board is racheting up the dispute even more by going forward and doing what they did last night," he said.

He said the employments contracts -- which the board terminated Dec. 31 -- had dated back to Jan 1, 2004. They were a move to protect the longtime employees in the event of a politically motivated firing.

"Unfortunately this is exactly what the prior board anticipated might happen if and when a board that was more friendly to the firefighter's union came into power," he said.

Bruntrager described the situation as a difficult one that the board wanted to avoid.

"We tried to do this on a volunteer basis, and we hoped someone would take us up on it," he said. "This is an effort to make sure the district is a good steward of taxpayer money."

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire

Comments on this article




FAMILY ESCAPES HOUSE FIRE IN O'FALLON, MO.

April 21, 2014 - KTVI

O'FALLON MO. - A family made it out safely after a house fire in O'Fallon, Mo. Monday evening.

This happened around 6:20 p.m. Monday in the 600 block of Sundance.

The homeowners told Fox 2 that they heard a popping noise in the garage. They discovered that there was a fire inside the garage.

Everyone inside the home was able to make it out safely.

No word on what caused the fire.

More on KTVI story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




BRUSH FIRE IN O'FALLON, MO. BURNS 1/2 ACRE OF LAND

March 18, 2014 - KMOV

O'FALLON, MO. - Firefighters in O'Fallon, Mo. battled an intense early morning brush fire on Tuesday.

The fire started around 2 a.m. near a residential area in the 700 block of Autumn Valley Drive. According to fire officials, flames from the fire were nearly 8 feet tall when they arrived on the scene.

Approximately one-half acre of land burned before fire crews were able to contain the blaze.

There are no injuries reported.

There is no word on a cause for the fire or if any of the homes sustained damage.

More on KMOV story

More Headlines for O'Fallon Fire




PERSON FOUND DEAD IN OUTBUILDING AFTER O'FALLON, MO. FIRE

January 16, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON - O'Fallon, Mo. police were investigating after a person was found dead inside an outbuilding after a fire late Thursday afternoon.

The victim was found inside a large unattached garage behind a home in the 8400 block of Mexico Road. Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after 4 p.m., and when they arrived, they found almost all of the structure in flames, said O'Fallon Fire Protection District Division Chief Mark Stenger. It took about 40 minutes to bring the fire under control, he said. As they were able to enter the building they found the body, he said.

Stenger said he wasn't sure if the incident would turn into a criminal investigation but the police and the state fire marshal's office was involved because of the fatality.

Stenger would not give details about the identity of the person who died.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story




O'FALLON, MO., FIRE CHIEF, FOUR OTHERS SUE THEIR OWN FIRE DISTRICT

O'Fallon, Mo, Fire Chief Mike Ballmann, center, attends a meeting in 2004 along with other fire chiefs from the area. Photo by Huy Mach, hmach@post-dispatch.com

December 11, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON, MO. - Fire Chief Mike Ballmann and four other O'Fallon Fire Protection District administrators are asking a judge to ensure they'll get severance pay if they're eventually fired in a cost-cutting move.

The five, in a lawsuit filed Dec. 3 against the district in St. Charles County Circuit Court, also contend that the district must give them the same amounts if they retire or resign, says their attorney, Frank Vatterott.

At issue are employment contracts with top-level employees, which the district is canceling on Dec. 31. After that, those affected become "at will" employees.

The five aren't challenging the district's authority to end the contracts. However, they say canceling those agreements in itself triggers the agreements' "separation pay" provisions - even if their employment ends after the contracts expire.

In contrast, the suit says, the district maintains that "no money is or will be owed" if firings take place after the contracts expire.

The district board's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said Wednesday that the plaintiffs' interpretation was wrong but declined to comment further on the suit.

Ballmann and the four others - Fire Marshal Mark Morrison, division chiefs Randy Sanders and Ken Vormund, and shift division chief Charles McCoy - are among 10 administrators who in recent months rejected buyouts aimed at trimming the district budget.

An internal audit revealed that the organization was top-heavy with too many administrators, Bruntrager has said. The buyout deal offered $1,000 for every year of service and full medical benefits for the employee and dependents for two years.

Each plaintiff would qualify for more separation pay than they would have gotten in the rejected buyouts, Vatterott said.

For example, Ballmann, the chief, would get severance equal to his pay this year of about $118,000. The four others, the suit said, would get an amount equal to a week's pay for each year of employment with the district. Most, Vatterott said, also would get the same medical benefits offered in the buyouts.

Bruntrager said no decision had been made to dismiss anyone. "It's business as usual on Jan. 1; everyone will continue to be employed," he said. However, he said it's possible some layoffs could happen in the future as the board considers ways to make the agency more efficient.

He has said previously that the district hoped three people would take the buyouts. Later, one of the 10, Scott Avery, resigned to become fire chief in Olivette.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story




FIREHOUSE SUBS DONATES NEARLY $20K IN EQUIPMENT TO O'FALLON FIRE DISTRICT

March 22, 2013 - O'Fallon Patch

O'FALLON - Helmets and a thermal-imaging camera valued at $17,800 were given to the O'Fallon Fire Protection District.

The O'Fallon Fire Protection District accepted a donation of some much-needed equipment Wednesday at the Firehouse Subs restaurant off Highway K.

Firehouse Subs franchisee Brian Collins and Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation development manager Meghan Bender made the presentation of the donation of 30 structural firefighters' helmets and a thermal imaging camera. The donation equaled more than $17,800.

The camera will detect body heat and hot spots in burning buildings and allows firefighters to reach victims quicker and put out deadly fires.

Firefighters and city officials were treated to subs and desserts before the presentation.

The Firehouse Subs franchise was started by two brothers and former firefighters. The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was started in 2005 with the mission of providing funding, life-saving equipment, and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations.

Each restaurant sells their used five-gallon pickle buckets to customers for $2, which goes to the foundation's work. In addition, each location has a donation canisters and customers are asked to "round up" their bill to the nearest dollar.

More on O'Fallon Patch story




IAFC NAMES LOCAL CHIEF OFFICER FOR FIRST EXECUTIVE-DEVELOPMENT CLASS

March 15, 2013 - Fire Chief Magazine

O'FALLON - The International Association of Fire Chiefs named the first students accepted into the Fire Service Executive Development Institute, a year-long leadership-development program designed to provide new and aspiring chiefs with the tools they need to have successful and productive tenures.

Among those accepted into the program are:
Chief Administration Officer Scott E Avery, O'Fallon (Mo.) Fire Protection District.

"Lately, we spend a lot of time talking about the challenges facing the fire and emergency service, but this group of leaders represents the opportunities ahead," said Chief Hank Clemmensen, IAFC president and chairman of the board. "Each of these officers has a proven track record as progressive and collaborative leaders. I have no doubt that bringing them together in a learning environment will benefit us all."

More on Fire Chief Magazine story




FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT TO GET ACCREDITATION AWARD

March 14, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

O'FALLON, MO. - The O'Fallon Fire Protection District is expected today to get its second consecutive award for being an internationally-accredited fire agency.

It is the first fire agency in the state to get the award twice, and only 145 fire agencies in the world have such status, spokesman Scott Avery said.

The award will be given by the Center for Public Safety Excellence's Commission on Fire Accreditation International, or CFAI, at its annual spring meeting in North Las Vegas.

The district has worked more than five years meeting the CFAI's standards, which includes ten categories such as planning, goals, governance, and programs.

More on St. Louis Post Dispatch story