Dryden Township and Village discuss dissatisfaction with fire chief
DRYDEN — There was standing room only for the public at the most recent Dryden Township Board meeting on March 14. Dryden Township firefighters, as well as their supporters, filled the audience to share opinions about ongoing concerns within the department. During public comment time, several firefighters spoke regarding their position, lack of communication, and an inability for the department leadership to communicate. While speaking, five firefighters announced that they will each be taking a leave of absence for 30 days. They each expressed that they hope the board will intervene and make changes to assist with current department concerns. Assistant Chief Klobucar presented his letter of resignation to the board.
Issues identified during the meeting were vaguely described by firefighters, the Chief, and the Assistant Chief as communication issues, an inability for the Chief and Assistant Chief to work together respectfully, and personal issues that were noted to go back several years. While details were not given regarding the cause of the department members’ concerns, each member that spoke asked for the same result: intervention from the township board.
Chief Hagemeister spoke to reassure the public, “When we are at a scene, we work great together. These issues do not impact how we respond to a fire.” Others in the meeting restated this sentiment, sharing that all of the firefighters work well together when responding to a fire and they view themselves as one the best teams around.
Members of the department noted that Fire Department Officer Rodney Redwood conducted a survey among firefighters during the week prior. The firefighters encouraged the board to look at the surveys in their entirety. Dryden Township Supervisor Tina Papineau stated that she would be meeting with Redwood the following day to review the surveys.
On March 15, Tina Papineau expressed that her meeting with Rodney Redwood went well and she was taking her time reading each survey. “I think it is great that the fire department presented their concerns to the board yesterday. We are looking into obtaining outside assistance to help with current issues within the department.” Papineau hopes that the department will be able to resolve any of their communication issues with the help of an outside resource.
The Dryden Township Fire Department released the following statement: “We are disheartened by the current state of our department, and eager to get the support needed to become a cohesive team again. The safety of our community remains our single priority, regardless of our internal challenges. While we have a handful of members who have decided to take a leave of absence, 19 active members remain committed to supporting our amazing community.”
The next Dryden Township Board Meeting will be held at the Dryden Township Hall on April 11 at 7 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.
Dryden Village Council holds special meeting regarding fire department
The Dryden Village Council held a special meeting on March 20 regarding the Dryden Township Fire Department. Stanley Roszczewski, President Pro-Tem, explained that the council will be presenting a letter of support for the firefighters to the Dryden Township Board, urging them to move forward and take action against Chief Hagemeister. “We have been dealing with Mark (Hagemeister) for years.” Roszczewski explained that he has contacted Tina Papineau, township supervisor, and reassured her that the village council would like to work together on this, as the village is impacted by fire department challenges as well. Members of the audience spoke, sharing similar concerns that were raised at the township board meeting. However, at the special council meeting, Fire Chief Hagemeister was identified as the root cause of stress on the job, lack of communication and mistreatment of firefighters. One audience member shared that Hagemeister told the department that they must not contact the township board unless something illegal is occurring. He shared that Chief Hagemeister has expressed to the department that he does not view himself as an employee of the township and has reportedly stated that he can run the department how he sees fit. Others in the audience echoed these remarks, urging council to send the letter. The village council voted unanimously to sign and send the letter to the township board.