Voters in Mid County Fire Protection District will select two board members in the April 8 election.
Incumbent Charles McElyea has filed for election and is challenged by John W. Page and Jeremy Rugen. Here, the candidates address the future of district.

Voters in Mid County Fire Protection District will select two board members in the April 8 election.
Incumbent Charles McElyea has filed for election and is challenged by John W. Page and Jeremy Rugen. Here, the candidates address the future of district.

Charles E. McElyea:  
Where do you live in the district? I live off of Thunder Mountain Road (Lake Road 5-88) near Bridal Cave   
How long have you lived in the Mid County district? I have lived at my present location since 1977.
What is your occupation/Who is your employer? I am an attorney and have practiced law in the Lake area since 1971.  I started practicing law with Phillips and Parrish, which became Phillips and McElyea, then Phillips, McElyea, Walker and Carpenter and is now Phillips, McElyea, Carpenter and Welch.

John W. Page:  
Where do you live in the district? 5 miles from Square on Old South 5
How long have you lived in the Mid County district? 12 years
What is your occupation/Who is your employer? Camden County Emergency Management Agency Director

Jeremy Rugen:
Where do you live in the district? Old South Highway 5
How long have you lived in the Mid County district? I have lived in the District for 15 years
What is your occupation/Who is your employer?I currently work as a Paramedic/Field Training Officer for Mercy E.M.S.

*Editor’s Note: Candidates were given a word limit to adhere to. Some answers were cut off to meet the word limit. Answers were not altered in any way.

1. Why are you running?
Charles McElyea:  I have served on the Mid-County Fire Protection District Board for approximately 8 years.  Although I am not a trained fire fighter, I have learned a lot about what it takes to operate a fire district.  Also, I have operated a business (law firm) and advised clients on many business matters through the years.  I want to see Mid-County Fire Protection District survive and provide the best fire protection and fire safety services possible within the funds supplied by the taxpayers.  I decided to run for another term on the Board because I believe that I can help the District provide services to the District patrons that they deserve and have come to expect.
John W. Page:  I decide to run for the position following the citizen meeting. There was so much dis-information and lack of information. I felt with my past experience and knowledge I could help resolve some of the concerns. I did know that Mr. Baremore was not seeking re-election. I too have a concern of closing of firehouses which will cause my insurance to increase on my home and business.
Jeremy Rugen:  I am a Candidate seeking budget accountability and keeping insurance rates low for the taxpayers throughout the fire district. Also, we need to keep open the fire stations that are planning to be closed. I have volunteered for Mid-County Fire for over 9 years and worked at Gravois Fire for 3 years. I believe with my experience as a firefighter and paramedic I can give some insight on the budget to save the district money. I have worked for organizations that use tax dollars to operate and I feel I have great understanding for saving tax dollars. I want to focus on providing service to the tax payers.

2.  Mid County Fire Protection District's budget has been of major concern for the board and residents for some time. What do you think needs to be done fiscally to resolve the budget woes currently facing the district?
McElyea: I can assure our patrons that this District is and has been operated very conservatively since I have been on the Board.  We have made severe financial cuts over the past several years and have had to dip into our reserves to pay for operating expenses and unexpected maintenance expenses such that our reserves are now below what our accountants recommend for a governmental entity.  The District has not had an operating levy increase since it was officially formed in 1986.  The bare bones solution the Board came up with was to ask the voters for a $0.12 levy increase which will just maintain what the District has and will enable the District to maintain the current services it now provides.  There is no pleasure in asking the voters for more money, but this is the only solution unless we cut services even more than we have already cut.
Page:  The answer is depend on the tax question results. I believe that the big concern of house closing can be resolved. The question of the other question are more difficult, Operating cost were not build in to the equitation when the bond issue was past and that is the big issue. Not sure the issue can be resolved without cuts to the bottom line. One thing the we have not is a group of citizens involved.
Rugen:  I believe the district severely needs overall budget accountability. Some of the trucks and equipment that are currently owned is not needed to provide service or to maintain insurance standards. I feel in our country today our government does not prioritize spending and wastes tax dollars. I don’t feel it is okay for our government or the fire board to do the same. I believe that if you have $2 you cannot spend $3. In my budget at home I cannot spend more money than I have in my account. My goal is to eliminate unneeded vehicles and equipment. I want to prioritize spending and have a complete audit performed. Once this is complete, I can determine more accurate needs of the district.

3. Recruiting and retaining volunteers has not been an easy task for the district in recent years. What are your ideas on how to recruit and retain more volunteers in the future?
McElyea: Recruiting and retaining volunteers is very difficult in not only our District but other Districts in the Lake area as well State wide.  We can point to several reasons for this difficulty, such as finding and keeping a job in these tough economic times, the time involved for mandated training requirements for volunteer and full time firefighters and in general the demands on our time of just daily living (work and family).  So, the bottom line is that it will be very difficult to recruit and retain volunteers in the future unless a District can provide volunteers some monetary incentive.  
Page:  In is not a issue that Mid County Fire Protection District is facing alone. It is in every area, the fire service is one of the hardest hit. We need to educate the public on the need and importance of volunteers. A part of that needs to start, with the businesses and then schools.
Rugen:  A lack of volunteer firefighters is a nationwide problem and several fire departments have faced this issue. Mid-County Fire currently has more volunteers than any other fire department in the lake area. I spoke with the district and the last number I was given is 48 volunteer firefighters. I am pleased to see Mid-County Fire has several volunteers. I feel the most critical issue is lack of response. What I mean when I say that is there could be a large fire and you may only see the full time staff on that shift and a limited number of volunteers respond. I have volunteered for several years and it is difficult to juggle everyday life with a family and still respond with the fire department. I believe if the volunteers are setup for success, they will be successful. I want to insure they are offered complete training, gear, and equipment

4. The Mid County Intern program has helped the district add to its volunteer force recently. If the district does not get the grant renewed that funds the program, the district may have to shut the program down. What are your thoughts on the program? If elected and the grant is not renewed, what would you like see done with the intern program?
McElyea: The Intern Program has been very beneficial to our District.  For example, we have been able to send more firefighters to the scenes of fires and automobile accidents than before we obtained the grant.  I would definitely like to see the Intern Program continue.  However, if the Grant is not renewed or if the levy increase request does not pass, then I do not see at this point that we can continue the program without finding ways to make more cuts from a budget that is already bare bones.
Page:  The program should continued either way, with less than the cost of one paid, we get 9 Training fireman. We need to let the citizens know of the benefits of the program, the answer may be scholarships or sponsorships.
Rugen:  The Intern Program has done great things for the district. It has allowed the district to increase staffing and increase personnel response to calls. The only issue is these are young people who are accepted into the program. They receive their training and experience from Mid-County and then leave the organization as Mid-County doesn’t have the funding to hire these trained personnel into full time positions. Sunrise Beach Fire has hired 3 of the interns for full time jobs at their department. This is great incentive for the interns, however, our fire district now has to refill the position left and train another person who may leave for a job in 6 months. I think the program has more pros than cons. It is a grant program and it is difficult to fund something with a tight budget. I would like to see this program continue with variations for costing and possibly reduced numbers of interns in this program. This will need to be determined by the budget.