WESTFIELD - After three years of controversy, the Westfield Village Board has abolished the Board of Fire Commissioners.
Established during the reign of Mayor Dave Carr, the BOFC officially went out of existence Monday night during the village meeting held in Eason Hall.
The board first acted on a motion to transition, but not abolish, the BOFC.
The vote failed by a 3 to 2 count. Not in favor of transitioning were Mayor Michael VandeVelde, Deputy Mayor Robert Cochran and Trustee Michael Catalano. Trustees Dave Brooker and Debra Puckhaber supported the proposal.
The next motion was to abolish the board and it was approved by a 3 to 2 margin. In favor were VandeVelde, Cochran and Catalano. Brooker and Puckhaber voted no.
Most residents were happy to see it go.
Ed Kneer, a 46-year member of the Westfield Fire Department, said, "We fight fires. The only thing the BOFC ever talked about was how the fire department could raise money. We are there to fight fires and work with volunteers. They did nothing to help the volunteers."
Secretary of Westfield Fire Department Marsha Holland pointed out those who wanted the BOFC in the first place are all gone.
"Obviously things didn't go their way," she said.
Resident Dave Cochran believes the BOFC only made things worse for everyone involved.
"It was formed to cause sanction, not harmony," he said.
Longtime Westfield Fire Department member Jud Storms is concerned about the department's future.
"I now feel like a foster child; parents sent me to a foster home and it is not working," he said. "Now we are in half-time and the game plan is not working. We must have a plan and redo what has been done so we can get the playbook for the second half of the game."
Ann Kneer, wife of Ed Kneer, added she went to every BOFC meeting and not once did members mention anything that would benefit the residents of Westfield.
"What has happened to us that the public is always in the dark?" she asked.
Puckhaber believes the BOFC was not made out of ill intent.
"There were so many problems with the fire department on day-to-day stuff," she said. "It got so big it took over the village board meetings. There are some issues on what went down, but we did make some progress with the BOFC."
"An abolishment of the board of fire commissioners is childish now," she continued. "They (firefighters) should be able to report to the village board like all the other departments, but we are not there yet. The BOFC shouldn't have to exist any more, but we are not at a point we can get rid of it."
Brooker added the BOFC was not made out of a personal vendetta.
"The root of the whole problem here is that the BOFC was not set up with proper guidelines," he said. "I think it has a place because it takes pressure off the village board. I think if everyone works together and we restructure it, the BOFC could benefit the village."