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Top-level positions change hands in county emergency services



Christopher Fay, Lake Saint Louis Fire Protection District

Christopher Fay, the new fire chief for Lake Saint Louis, started his 22-year firefighting career as a volunteer for the fire service. Fay had been studying to be a graphic designer and only worked for the department on a summer break. In 1997, he was hired on as a full-time firefighter for Lake Saint Louis.

“I learned later on in life that this was something I enjoyed, something that I thought was pretty fulfilling,” Fay said. “It was a complete career change, but I’m glad I made the decision to change.”

Before taking the chief position, Fay had served as a captain for the district and noted that every call firemen are sent out on presents an opportunity to improve their skills.

“I try to take every situation that we’re in and use it as a learning experience,” Fay said.

In terms of moving forward, he said he wants to ensure that citizens are looked after, and that firefighters are well trained.

While he said it will take some time getting used to not working with his colleagues on the fire trucks, he is proud to be working as the district’s chief.

“I’m going to take the time to learn and to meld into the process here,” Fay said. “I’m from Lake Saint Louis. I’ve lived here since 1973. I’m very proud of Lake Saint Louis, and I’ve proud to be one of the leaders here in the city now.”


Jeff Smith, St. Charles County Dispatch and Alarm



Former Lake Saint Louis Fire Chief Jeff Smith was recently appointed as the director of St. Charles County’s Department of Dispatch and Alarm.
A 27-year veteran of the Lake Saint Louis FPD, Smith said he has had plenty of interaction with the workers at Dispatch and Alarm over the years, but he is looking forward to meeting new employees, and getting to know better those he is already familiar with.

Smith said he also will continue to work with local fire and ambulance district chiefs, but from a new perspective.

“It’ll be interesting, because I’ll continue to work with a lot of the same folks, the chief of the ambulance district, the chiefs of the fire districts, only in a different capacity,” Smith said. “Instead of being a fellow fire chief, I’ll be the one running the county’s dispatching center for their agencies.”

In his new position, Smith will oversee the Dispatch and Alarm department, which handles all 911 transfer calls from police as well as the dispatching of first responders for St. Charles County.
Smith said there are several challenges to tackle in the near future for Dispatch and Alarm, including the implementation of a county-wide radio system and a potential replacment of the county’s 911 system.

Smith replaces Bob Watts, who has led the department since 2003 and is retiring.




Tom Vineyard, O’Fallon Fire Protection District

O’Fallon’s new Fire Chief Tom Vineyard was officially sworn into his position at the June 12 fire district Board of Directors meeting.

Previously he had served as fire chief for both the Monarch Fire Protection District – taking the helm there in 2012 – and the Mid-County Fire Protection District, where he became chief in 2004.

According to Vineyard, his ability to interact with all kinds of people is one of the skills he brings to the office.

“I think some of my strengths are my ability to work well with people, whether it be the rank and file, the current management team, the local politicians in the area or the residents,” Vineyard said.

He said he has and will continue to take time to meet with local leaders in order to ensure that the fire department is providing the services expected of it.

“I’m still kind of in the learning phase here,” Vineyard said. “I’m still trying to evaluate everything. But it seems like we’ve got a pretty good handle on community outreach.”

O’Fallon Board Member Matt Gober said Vineyard’s communications skills are “top notch.”

“He’s a good listener,” Gober said. “He doesn’t just rush into a situation and try to take things over.”

Vineyard, who came to Monarch on the heels of controversy, joins O’Fallon after the former chief was asked to leave.

O’Fallon’s former chief Mike Ballmann and Deputy Chief Randy Sanders, at the district’s April 21 board meeting were given just under 30 days to either accept a severance package or be terminated.

Ballmann said he was not sure if an analysis conducted in July of 2013 was related directly to his being asked to leave the district, only that when he was placed on administrative leave, he was told the district wanted to move in a different direction.

“They used the staffing audit as a reason to basically eliminate a position,” Ballmann said. “I don’t know if I was one of them. What they told me was they wanted to go in a different direction, but the staffing audit said that we were top heavy in administration.”

The audit to which Ballmann refers was a financial and organizational structure analysis of the O’Fallon Fire Protection District. The firm that conducted the analysis was Rognan and Associates, for which Richard Rognan, a former West County EMS and Fire Board director, serves as a CPA.

As Ballmann indicated, the analysis recommended a 50 percent reduction in administrative personnel, and advised the district to consider restructuring its organization. Subsequently, the board offered buyouts to 10 of its top-ranking district officials in September of 2013. But by May of 2014, O’Fallon Board Attorney Neil Bruntrager said the district remained “three seats heavy in the administration end of things.”

Bruntrager was contacted for further comment regarding the audit, but did not respond prior to presstime. Of Vineyard’s appointment, Bruntrager previously said, “Chief Vineyard is a proven leader. He (will) bring to this district great experience on every level, and he’s exactly the sort of progressive thinking chief that the district is looking for.”

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