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Fire Chief resigns after funding dispute

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The funding fight for East Texas fire departments has one crew looking for a new leader.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Cody Crawford resigned when he got word his salary wasn't a legitimate personnel expense.

Smith County Emergency Services District Number Two funds the department. They say the ESD doesn't pay chief salaries.

But volunteer fire fighters say the ESD has been paying those salaries for at least three years. They say it could be the last straw in an argument that has been going on for months.

"I'd had all I could stand and the problem is a lot of us are at that point that we've had all we could stand," expressed Interim Chapel Hill Chief Kelly Acker.

As the interim chapel hill fire chief, Acker is in charge of workers comp, payroll, taxes and unemployment---and he's not particularly happy about it.

"That's not what we want to do, we're there to fight fire. So that's why we had to pay the chief to handle all of the administrative functions of basically, a small company," explained Acker.

The fallout came Thursday night when the ESD board refused to pay the
Chapel Hill and Noonday chief salaries as personal expenses.

"According to them if we put it in another budget line item, it wouldn't have been a problem, like in legal and professional, then they should tell us," says Acker.

Outraging other chiefs at the meeting

Whitehouse Fire Chief Ronne Fite says, "They micro-manage us so bad. It's ridiculous that we can't get the funds that we need allocated and we basically have to get up here on our knees and beg for it."

"It seems like every time we turn around and every meeting we come to something has changed for us," says Tommy Brock of the Smith County Volunteer Fire Department Association.

And this is one change that's left Chapel Hill fire fighters feeling like they've lost a brother.

An upsetting situation that has taken another fire fighter off the street when they need him most.

The Noonday Fire Chief salary was also denied by the Smith County ESD board.

We tried contacting the board president and left messages on his cell phone but are told he is currently out of the state.

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