NORTH WEBSTER — Earlier reports North Webster Fire Chief Jeremy Likens had resigned from his position, have been clarified by the chief. He has not resigned, but is asking for consideration of two weeks vacation while this matter is investigated and a resolution reached.
Likens provided the following statement:
“First of all, as the fire chief of Tippecanoe Township, I would like to apologize to the community for the sudden rush of attention that has been presented as surrounding your communities fire and EMS service.
“Please, never doubt for a minute that over the last 25 years that I haven’t for a moment not put my heart and soul into my job as a firefighter and your current North Webster Fire Chief. My team and I along with the support of the elected trustee and boards have worked very hard for this community. We have as a unit worked to change our communities insurance ISO rating from a low rate of nine/10 to a greater efficiency rate of six, which correlates to lower insurance rates for us all. This also makes our community much safer than ever before, so it makes me very saddened to see what is currently happening with your emergency services.
“That being said I have had a very difficult time doing my job over the past eight months due to the effects of the micromanagement of the emergency medical services by the township trustee. I decided to bring my growing concerns to the township board in the hope of a simple resolution. Until entering the meeting room, I was unaware that many of our emergency first responding fire and EMS team had decided to attend this meeting as well. Our presence was to voice the concerns of micromanagement of your emergency services.
“The concerns were presented and the board as well as the trustee agreed the day to day operations of the combined fire and EMS service should and would be the responsibility of the fire chief, along with our command staff, the division chief of EMS. At the close of this meeting your emergency first responding fire and EMS team and I left the meeting in very high spirits and were ready to get back to doing the job of protecting this community. We felt this issue was resolved.
“When I learned the very next evening the trustee had called four of our staff members into a special non-public closed meeting without informing myself or the division chief of EMS, it became apparent that his word from the previous night’s group meeting would not be honored.
“As your fire chief, I feel responsible for the lives and the property of this community and for my team who has shown myself as fire chief and the division chief of EMS tremendous support. This creates a concern: If I as your community fire chief continue to work under these circumstances, I feel we as a department would just be made to continue as before. This is that we would be forced to allow the trustee to make decisions that over step his elected responsibility, which is to handle the financial needs of providing fire and emergency services to this wonderful and respected community. Thus bringing down the moral of the team of professional volunteer and career emergency responders. This action has the potential to cause me to lose their respect as the leader of emergency services of our community.
“If the town and township board will agree I would like to consider the next two weeks as a long needed vacation while giving both boards time to investigate this difficult situation more fully, to make a respected and joint decision as to the future of the emergency services of our wonderful community!
“This community needs to know, that you have a professional group of volunteer and career emergency responders in both the fields of fire service and emergency medical services. We have always as a department under the direction and lead of myself as fire chief, had the communities best interest at heart. We are a professional service, only wanting to provide a professional service, without the potential of being managed by those whom are not in the fire management service. I would like the community to know that at no time would I leave anyone’s property or loved one unprotected and that we have the support of our neighboring fire and emergency medical services to help if or when that may become necessary. With your continual support, we as a department will grow through this, I am open to conversations with anyone in our community, as fire chief of North Webster Tippecanoe Township.”