COPENHAGEN — A village meeting Wednesday evening melted into a heated exchange between Mayor Kenneth Clarke and a community member over the fire department’s latest attempt to reinstate its drill team.

Despite having been voted down twice by the Board of Trustees, the Copenhagen Volunteer Fire Department is trying to separate the department’s worker’s compensation insurance from that of the village so the department can pay for its own to include the drill team.

“If you guys want to go out on your own comp, you’d have to get out of the village’s comp,” Trustee Kim Vogt said. “It’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing.”

She said there’s no way to separate out the firematics from the fire department in order to get the insurance reorganized the way Fire Chief Jim Henry and the department hope to do. Attendees were concerned about the fire department’s latest efforts to resuscitate the drill team.

One man accused department officials of not being able to handle their own finances evidenced by a state audit in 2015, and wondered how they would find and manage the money for the insurance. Many of the 22 people present agreed with Shareef Stokely, who said the fire department will keep trying to get the team reinstated because it was never officially banned: they were told that they could no longer compete.

“Someone on the board needs to tell them that there’s no more drill team because I can’t afford any more taxes so please, somebody on the board, tell them there is no drill team,” Mr. Stokely said in between targeted hand claps and reminders to the board that it’s their job to take care of this issue and protect the community from the unnecessary expenses.

Mayor Clarke said Mr. Stokely “wasted all that time” speaking because the board already told the fire department that there was not more racing, but Mrs. Vogt said that she understood Mr. Stokely’s point because the drill team was not disbanded in clear terms.

Although he had the support of the majority of the crowd, Mr. Stokely was cut off from speaking by the mayor when he said, “If you’re going to be a leader, be a leader, make your decision and stop playing around.”

Mr. Clarke immediately called for a motion to close the meeting, against the protest of Mrs. Vogt and some attendees.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Stokely continued to exchange angry comments and insults that resulted in threatening posturing and a demand by the mayor for the clerk to call the police.

A Lewis County Sheriff Deputy and State Trooper arrived at the village’s offices and spoke to the mayor, but said after that there were no grounds for charges or a ticket.

The fire department’s efforts to attain a property next to its current building, while on the agenda, was put off until the next board meeting.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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