Ash Flat Mayor Brien Nix Hall fired Fire Chief Johnny Schales at the March 17 city council meeting. A new fire chief is expected to be hired within the next 30 days.
The mayor refused to give a reason for the firing.
After adjourning into a closed session the Ash Flat City Council reconvened and announced that Hall had made the executive decision to replace Schales, who was a part-time fire chief, with someone who would occupy the position full time.
Hall said Schales' annual salary was approximately $5,000, but his replacement will be paid a salary comparable to that of the police chief, which is approximately $33,000. Hall said he recommended the city hire a full-time fire chief because of the progress the city had made. He said Schales was not offered the full-time position.
Firefighter Stacy Horton was appointed interim fire chief after Schales' dismissal. Hall said he would announce who would be hired as the permanent fire chief within 48 hours; however, he later said he had extended that time frame to 30 days and expects to take applications for the position.
In other business, Realtor Joe Cotham, a former alderman, addressed the council on behalf of Kent Investments. Cotham said the company has outgrown its current factory in Ash Flat and is considering purchasing property for future development near where the new Ozarka College campus will be built.
According to Cotham, the company initially intends to build a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot building, with future expansion to include a 200,000 square foot building. Cotham asked the council to provide utilities and a paved road to the site.
Some of the property Kent Investments intends to purchase is owned by Lilburn Nix, Hall's grandmother; therefore, Hall limited his comments. However, he did say he thought it was imperative the council consider the request since industrial development is important to the city. The council approved the request with a unanimous vote.
Cotham also told the council that other property owned by Nix near the proposed college campus could be purchased by the city for $2,500 per acre for the development of a city park and lake. The council agreed to purchase approximately 15 acres.
The council opened sealed bids for summer mowing of city properties. The council had previously made the decision to subcontract all of the mowing instead of hiring employees as it had done in the past. Ronnie Qualls submitted the lowest bid in the amount of $13,500. The council voted unanimously to accept his bid.
Police Chief Rick Crook asked the council to consider purchasing new bulletproof vests for the department. Crook said there is a possibility a 50-percent matching grant might be obtained for the purchase. Hall told Crook to proceed with inquiries into the grant, but the council took no action.
The council voted unanimously to donate 10 sets of fire turnout gear to the Center Fire Department. New turnouts were recently purchased for Ash Flat firefighters, but Hall said the old turnouts are still in adequate condition. He said they were donated to Center because it is the closest fire department to Ash Flat. He said Center Fire Department routinely provides mutual aid to Ash Flat.