Cumberland Gap loses fire chief, alderperson

Jan Runions

October 9, 2013

The recent resignation of Cumberland Gap Fire Chief John Adams and at least four of his volunteer firefighters and auxiliary personnel has forced the town council to come up with another way to keep the station running at peak performance.

Last week, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved the temporary appointment of Ray Paul as acting fire chief and accepted a plan to utilize Lincoln Memorial University scholarship students who have been firefighter certified.

It appears the council will also be scouting a new alderperson to replace Joan Webb, who submitted her resignation effective immediately.

Webb, who is the sister of the former fire chief, gave no official reason for her sudden departure.

When contacted, Adams said he would not offer comment about the situation.

Cumberland Gap Mayor Bill McGaffee said after the meeting the resignation stemmed from revenues.

McGaffee said the council had transferred to the fire station budget some $1,600 formerly used as NCIS funds to begin paying Adams a salary plus expenses. The $1,600 would be broken down to supply the fire chief a $100 per month salary and $50 per month for expenses. The remainder of the budgeted funds would go toward a $10 per run fee.

“John (Adams) has not given me any specific reasons for resigning,” said McGaffee, adding the former fire chief had done an excellent job for 14 years.

“As long as I’m mayor, he can be fire chief as long as he wants. John ran a tight ship,” he added.

When asked why the town does not have a firefighter on call and physically at the station at night, McGaffee said the town could not afford the extra expense. He said the majority of the volunteers live in town and it would take but a few minutes to assemble for a call.

The fire station currently maintains a mutual aid contract with adjacent cities including nearby Harrogate, which is in possession of a ladder truck — something Cumberland Gap does not currently own.

As for Webb’s vacated council seat, McGaffee said he expected to have a name to submit by the next BMA meeting.

During the meeting last week, Alderman John Ravnum requested the town create plaques of appreciation for Adams and Webb, who had served on the council for 19 years.

“This town owes both these people a huge debt of gratitude,” said Ravnum.

The plaques will be displayed on the Towne Hall walls.

Claiborne Progress | Civitas Media, LLC

Reach Jan Runions at jrunions@civitasmedia.com