Controversy brewing as Gaston Co. town reorganizes fire department, public safety operations

The Town of Stanley’s recent public safety decisions appear to be causing plenty of backlash.
The Town of Stanley is reorganizing its public safety operations, including its fire department leadership structure.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 8:31 AM EST
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STANLEY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Town of Stanley is reorganizing its public safety operations, causing plenty of backlash within the community.

WBTV has received several calls and messages expressing displeasure with the town’s decision to change its fire department leadership structure.

According to the town, the Stanley Fire Department was previously ran by a part-time chief and a part-time assistant chief. Under the reorganization, the town said those jobs will be consolidated into one full-time chief position. The chief and public safety director will then determine who will hold other command positions, with approval from the town manager.

Many people who contacted WBTV said the chief and assistant chief lost their jobs due to the reorganization.

Stanley announced the changes on Facebook on Tuesday. In the comments section, several people posted photos of firefighters gear being turned in. The town has since turned comments off on the post.

The town said a new public safety director will be responsible for all operations, and should coordinate a seamless operating partnership between firefighters and police. Town officials said the director will work with other department heads, including those in the public works, finance, planning, recreation and utility sectors.

Despite the apparent backlash, town leaders claim the reorganization makes for “positive changes” and shows their “true commitment” to ensuring the community’s safety.

“The Mayor and Town Council have and continue to make public safety a top priority for the Town of Stanley,” the town’s Facebook announcement read. “Both fire and police have seen their respective departments funded at higher levels, year over year, since 2017.”

The town said the fire department’s budget was just under $230,000 in 2017. This year, the budget is reportedly more than $573,000. A new fire truck was also recently purchased.

“The Mayor and Town Council understand and know the importance for police and fire protection in our growing community,” the town’s announcement continued. “Stanley has, and will continue to see a growing demand for calls for service in police, and fire. Along with the increase in calls, the area of coverage for police and fire has increased significantly.”

Stanley said its reorganized public safety team will be responsible for “investigating and proposing staffing options for the future.”

Mayor Steven Denton confirmed that “several” part-time employees have resigned following the reorganization, but said more than 20 employees remain on the fire department’s roster, and an additional 10 applications are expected this week.

In its social media announcement, the town claims that it has hired a “highly qualified and fully vetted interim fire chief.”

Related: Gaston Co. teacher, Vietnam veteran turns 90; chooses to celebrate with students

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