City scrambles to find new leaders for fire department

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Potterville city leaders are scrambling to get its fire department back up and running following the sudden resignations of its chief and deputy chief.

Chief Ryan Lundquist, Assistant Chief Townsend Montgomery and Fire Volunteer Andrew Klassen all resigned from the department. Now, the city’s fire department is shut down until officials can find interim leaders for the command positions.

6 News obtained a copy of Lundquist’s resignation letter from a city councilmember. In it, he says the work environment has been hostile for the last year, and the city has not done anything about it. 

Council Member and Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Bussard disagrees, saying it’s not hostile, but it’s a change in leadership style that has people upset. Potterville’s previous city manager, Wanda Darrow, was fired last year.

“Whereas we weren’t as tight to the rules before, our new manager is getting us on the straight and narrow, which is causing friction in all of the departments,” Bussard said.”

Lundquist also said the department has been down a fire engine for more than a month and the city council has not made replacing it a priority. But Bussard says it’s not as simple as just getting a new one, as the city sorts out finance issues from the previous administration.

“Not knowing where our finances 100 percent are at, we couldn’t go and justify putting $100-plus thousand down on a vehicle if we didn’t know our net position,” Bussard said.

Bussard added the department was in compliance with state regulations despite being down a fire engine. 

City manager Aaron Sheridan is interviewing candidates to take over command of the department in the interim. Bussard says the department could be running again as early as Friday.

In the meantime, Potterville’s fire calls are being handled by Charlotte, Benton Township and Windsor Township. Bussard says the suspension of the city’s department should not have an impact on response times.

“We’re working diligently getting everything we need together to get this department open and operational again,” Bussard said.

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