By NATHAN GREGORY
Maben Fire Department Chief Justin Collins resigned Tuesday, citing personnel issues, according to sources.
Oktibbeha County Fire Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said his departure is strictly an internal situation and a personnel matter.
Collins, who had led the department since May 2011, reportedly claimed that 24 of 25 of the volunteers on the department’s staff were also tendering their resignations.
Rosenhan said he was unaware that Collins had 25 active firefighters on his staff.
Maben Mayor Larry Pruitt said Wednesday that he had only received one signed resignation, which was from Collins. He said there are only 12 active firefighters in the department.
Members of the department have selected Scott Helms to serve as interim chief. The Maben Board of Aldermen will decide in the future how to fill Collins’ vacancy on a permanent basis. Helms is an Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department deputy.
Pruitt said professionalism, financial management and equipment maintenance were among several areas of question under Collins’ tenure. He said not only will fire services continue to be provided effectively despite the departure, but they will improve.
In his years of public service as an alderman in the past and now as mayor, the department did not have issues related to effectiveness until this year.
“This was one of the best fire departments you would ever want to be around until this administration,” he said. “Now, I just want us to get it back to what it used to be.”
“Emergency response is a profession and you must be professional on the scene,” he added. “We’re just happy at this time because the fire department had been going downhill for a while with the leadership we had.”
The fire department members oversee the election of the chief, he said.
“We’re going to make sure we watch who they select (to permanently replace Collins). We need to put people in charge who make sure the (volunteers) are at their best.”
Rosenhan said surrounding departments will be available to provide mutual aid in the event they’re needed.
“We’re stepping forward and not worrying about the past,” Rosenhan added. “We ensure the volunteer firefighters of Oktibbeha County are on the job and dedicated to continuing to provide services to the county.”
The Maben Fire Department is run by the town of Maben and funded by Oktibbeha County.