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After months of debate, members of the Clover Town Council have reaffirmed a decision to limit Clover firefighters from volunteering in any other first responder capacities.
Clover Fire Chief Charlie Love, who leads the all-volunteer department of 24 active firefighters, said the issue arose because a few of the volunteer firefighters were interested in joining the Clover Police Department’s new volunteer reserve officer program.
He said the department’s existing bylaws have for years stated that volunteer firefighters could not serve as volunteers in other first responder organizations, such as the rescue squad or police department.
“That was something that we’ve always gone by for years,” Love said.
Love said he doesn’t believe volunteer firefighters could handle more than one first responder volunteer position, because of the steep requirements they must meet to remain active and qualified.
“With the requirements that we have to do yearly as volunteer firefighters, or even as a paid firefighter, I don’t see how someone would be able to give their all to two entities and be on top of it,” Love said. “You’d be torn, or not doing both of them up to your best ability.”
The council voted to approve the ban on firefighters volunteering in other first responder capacities, with Mayor Donnie Grice and councilman Todd Blanton voting against the measure.
“I think that’s a little too restrictive,” Grice said.
Blanton agreed, saying the town is limiting its volunteer pool. “We don’t have a lot of volunteers knocking down our doors,” Blanton said. “How am I to say what someone can or cannot do?”
In a separate votes over the volunteer fire department’s bylaws, the council also broadened the membership eligibility requirements to include area youth who have served in the department’s Explorer Post 18.
Under that change, those who complete a basic firefighter orientation course while a member of the Clover department’s Explorer Post 18 — a youth organization for ages 16 to 21 — can become a volunteer with the Clover department when they turn 18 if they live in the Clover, Bethel or Bethany fire districts.
Love said the previous Clover fire department requirement limited membership to those who live inside the Clover fire district, which includes areas outside the town limits.
He said the department has asked over the years to get its residency requirements for membership broadened so it can have more volunteers. “We don’t have people knocking down our door to get in,” Love said. “Everybody does need people to help on the volunteer side.”
Several Clover volunteer firefighters offered their views on the issue during the council’s Nov. 12 meeting, when no action was taken. Three firefighters told the council they were not in favor of allowing firefighters to volunteer at two different emergency agencies.
Fred Taylor, one of the department’s volunteers, told the council he barely has time for one volunteer position, and that he doesn’t see how others could volunteer at two agencies. He said the department might not know who will show up for emergencies if members have other volunteer responsibilities.