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Bronson fire chief quits

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By Claude Lewis

BRONSON - These are tumultuous times for Bronson Town government.

Not only has Town Clerk Donna Conquest resigned, but now Fire Chief Rick Lombardo has also decided to call it quits.

"That's it," admitted Lombardo, who was just reelected to his second term as chief of the 12-man force in August. "I'm getting out of it completely. It's impossible to serve where they don't respect you."

Assistant Fire Chief Dave Reinstra said Tuesday that Lombardo told him he was stepping down last Thursday, Sept. 11.

"He turned in all his stuff to me," said Reinstra, who is now acting chief. "We'll have elections next month (Oct. 13)."

Lombardo is an 11-year veteran of fighting fires. He started out in Fowlers Bluff and moved on to Cedar Key before coming to the Bronson volunteer force two years ago. He was elected chief in Bronson in August of 2007.

"People don't understand, it is in your blood," Lombardo said. "You do it to help your fellow man."

Lombardo said it will be tough getting out of it.

"I made a promise to my family," he said. "I'll find something to do with my spare time."

Lombardo had been under recent scrutiny from town officials over recent Workers Compensation claims. Questions of his health surfaced. Most recently, his duties had been restricted.

"I showed (Mayor Franklin Schuler) my release from the doctor which states only 'not to enter hazardous atmospheres,'" Lombardo said.

The straw that broke Lombardo's back was presented at the Sept. 9 Town Council Meeting.

Council Member Melody LaFlam spoke on Lombardo's behalf and presented a list of duties that Lombardo could still perform.

When the list was distributed, three other council members said many of those duties weren't being performed. One even questioned what good is a fire chief who can't go to a fire.

"It's hard to defend your reputation after the fact," Lombardo said. "Listening to the tape of the meeting, it was like I wasn't coming back.

Everyone knew where I was. I was on vacation in Georgia for a week. Everyone conveniently forgot that."

In his resignation letter, Lombardo said he was "appalled at the performance of the board and some of the fire department."

Lombardo added that "a fire chief is not required to enter a fire. His job is adminstrative in nature and to oversee operations, apparatus, etc."

Lombardo had recently been leading a charge in a controversial fire department merger between Bronson and Otter Creek. It was finally approved by Bronson Town Council at the August meeting.

"I hope that is seen through," Lombardo said. "It's important for insurance concerns for Otter Creek."

Reinstra, a 51-year-old who has 21 years of fire service, was Bronson's Fire Chief before Lombardo was elected. He lives just outside the city limits.

"My name is out there," said Reinstra, who will be acting Fire Chief until the election. "I'll take it if they want me."

Reinstra said Scott Bulson is another possible candidate for the job.

"I am saddened to end my commitment to the people of this county in this manner and hope that some