In the Village of Xenia, one thing is certain: Anything that involves the wonderful Volunteer Fire Department will get the community’s attention. Be it the Annual Fish Fry or the Fund Raising Breakfast, the citizens of Xenia and those in the surrounding rural fire protection service district come out in force to support their volunteers. The evening meeting on Friday April 20, was no exception.
News had been heard that fourteen of the eighteen volunteers had resigned because of differences with one of the members of the Board of Trustees. There would be no, or very limited, emergency protection for the district; the meeting at the firehouse had been hurriedly called to find answers.
Many people were inside the firehouse and outside the firehouse thirty minutes before the meeting. The mood was angry. The resigning firemen were unwilling, before the meeting, to give much information. They had a problem with the newly appointed trustee. At the time of the appointment they, as a group had written to the County Board suggesting a different person. As far as they knew then, the County Board had ignored them. The trustee in question, Daniel Edgington, stood alone in the meeting room and, when asked what he had to say about the problem, he merely said: “No comment at this moment”.
The President of the Board of Trustees, Edwin Henson, called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm. With him were Secretary Darrell Allan and Edgington who is the Treasurer. Attorney Aaron Leonard was also present to advise and assist the Trustees. Henson began the meeting by announcing that its purpose was to discuss how to cover the District without the fourteen volunteers. The question was raised by the audience as to why the concerns of the volunteers could not be met. What were their concerns?
The reply from both Henson and Leonard was that they could not go back; they must go forward.
Immediately, one member of the audience became extremely angry, stood up and yelled an expletive and said :”This is a waste of time. We’ll get no answers,” and stormed out of the meeting. Still shouting, he was escorted by a Sherriff’s Deputy to his vehicle. Despite his absence, he received warm applause.
The audience not only remained angry, they became increasingly frustrated by lack of information. If Edgington, one man, resigned, fourteen firefighters would return and the district would remain protected. Leonard adamantly denied this. If the Trustees gave in to the firefighters’ wishes the Trustees would lose all credibility. Many in the audience thought they already had.
Edgington’s father, Dwight, stood up and made an impassioned but totally ineffectual and ineffective speech attempting to lay the blame on the fourteen firefighters for Xenia’s loss of protection. This elicited an extremely negative reaction from the audience.
Page 2 of 3 - Both Henson and Allan appealed for calm with little result. At one point, it appeared that Leonard attempted to take over the meeting and then resignedly threw down his legal pad on the table.
Frustration continued. What did the volunteers not like about Edgington? From their gathering in the audience they replied that in their dealings with Edgington, there had been a record of “dishonesty and deceit.” One of them added: “we have lost trust in the Trustee.” Leonard said there had been a public meeting with the Volunteers two days previously to address their concerns. Asked what those concerns were, Leonard said he did not have them. Pressed by an audience member that he had no record of a public meeting, Leonard admitted the concerns were recorded in the minutes of that special meeting and would be submitted for approval at the next regular meeting.
Edgington then spoke: he said that at the County Board Meeting to appoint a trustee, the choice of the volunteers, Bill Bradley, withdrew his application because, according to Edgington, he “had not realized what the job involved.” Nevertheless, speaker after speaker rose to urge Edgington to resign. Henson, Allan and Leonard emphasized that there was no way to remove a trustee except by his resignation.
Former Xenia Mayor, President of Xenia Elevator, Farmer in Three Counties and Secretary/Treasurer of Wabash Telephone Co-op, Dwight Edgington, showed he was obviously used to getting his own way; angrily, he got to his feet, angrily he berated the volunteers and the audience and, upon once again being rebuffed, sat down with his apparently embarrassed family who appeared to be the only supporters of Daniel Edgington in the room.
The protesters continued: asking the sense of sacrificing fourteen volunteer firemen, their experience, their knowledge and their bravery to keep one prominent man’s son on the Board of Trustees. Trustees Henson and Allan were at a loss. One member of the audience came up to the Board’s table and started talking to them privately. An audience member asked Attorney Leonard if this was legal at a public meeting; he said it was O.K. because she spoke softly. Asked by the same audience member to address her concerns to the meeting, the lady turned around and was heard throughout the room.
It could not go on. Eventually Trustee President Henson slapped the table and said “This is enough.” The meeting was closed.
The next meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm on Wednesday May 2 at the Xenia Firehouse. Since no motion was made to adjourn Friday’s meeting it is unclear whether or not this is a continuation or a new meeting in its own right. If it is a new meeting the minutes of the special meeting of Wednesday April 18 and Friday April 20, 2012, should be offered for approval and Xenia can, perhaps discover what is going on with their beloved and highly respected Volunteer Fire Department.
Page 3 of 3 - It was confirmed by Edwin Henson on Sunday April, 22, that the volunteers offered to rescind their resignations. For all of the Xenia Fire Protection district, this is wonderful news. The volunteers have proved that they put the safety of their community above their own concerns with a young man who may be too proud to resign