Tuesday, 09 July 2019 23:22

Rockingham Council briefed on Junior Police and Fire Academy; approve demolition ordinance

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Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler, left, and Police Chief Billy Kelly describe the activities from last month's Junior Police and Fire Academy at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler, left, and Police Chief Billy Kelly describe the activities from last month's Junior Police and Fire Academy at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Chuck Thames - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — City Council members on Tuesday were given an overview of the annual Junior Police and Fire Academy summer program during their brief July meeting.


Police Chief Billy Kelly said the program for middle-schoolers, which is a collaboration between the Rockingham police and fire departments, “gives them a sample of what it’s like to serve the public.

“It also lets them get out of the house and do something productive,” he added.  

According to Kelly, 30 children participated this year. In past years, he said they have had 50-60 but found 30 to be more manageable and believes the attendees were able to get more out of it with a smaller group.  

The most popular activities during the police portion of the program were the K-9 and drone programs, Kelly said, adding that the kids enjoyed the technology of the drones as they saw demonstrations by the operators of the units.  

Fire Chief Harold Isler said the first day at the fire department was spent training the kids on CPR and First Aid. 

He said some of the kids were small but all of them took the training seriously with the understanding that they may have the opportunity one day to save someone’s life with this training.   

The next day the participants learned how to put out a real fire with a fire extinguisher. Isler believes the real hands-on training gives the kids the confidence to use a fire extinguisher when needed.  

Isler said one parent told him that, following the training, her son come home, pulled the fire extinguisher out from under the kitchen sink and took it outside and “tested” it.  

“He obviously learned something,” the chief said the parent told him.  

Isler said she was able to take it in stride and said, “Well, I know it worked and he knew how to use it, now I’ll just go to the store and replace it.”  

The fire department training also included teamwork exercises. Isler noted that his firemen could not work alone to put out fires and teamwork was a major part of their jobs.  By the end of the day, he said the kids realized the value of teamwork.   

Isler quipped that some of the kids think they want to be police officers before they get to the fire department. After spending time with the firemen, however, they change their minds. 

“One little boy came up to me and said, ‘I thought I wanted to be a policeman but y’all's job is more fun.’”  

Isler’s reply: “You’re smart.” 

“It’s an awful hot time to be out doing that,” said Mayor Steve Morris.

 Isler replied, “That’s why the fire department is much more fun — they don’t get to spray water down there (at the police department).”  

There is no charge for the program and the kids are there all day with lunch provided by several sponsors including Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Burger King and Papa John’s.

The only action taken by the council was the approval of another demolition ordinance.

The property in question was a dilapidated home located at 510 Maness Avenue. 

According to Assistant City Manager and City Planner John Massey, when informed of the intent to demolish the structure, the owner came in and obtained a building permit. However, no action was ever taken on repairs and the permit has since expired. 

Massey said he had spoken with the owner back in January, who indicated his intent was to make repairs and put the house up for sale. Months have passed and several attempts to reach the owner have not been successful.  

On a motion by Councilman Gene Willard and a second by Councilwoman Denise Sullivan, the motion was passed by the full council.  

Citing state statute, the council went into closed session for economic development and personnel discussions, two exemptions in the open meetings laws.

No action was taken and the meeting was adjourned.

The Rockigham City Council meets the second Tuesday of each month.