Volunteer Fire Chief Brian Moat disclosed his imminent resignation Saturday, April 6, effective midnight, during an interview at E&B Coffee Roasters in Nolensville with the Nolensville Home Page.
Moat says his decision to step down has been coming for months, but the April 6 Board of Mayor and Alderman (BOMA) meeting was the last straw.
Town leaders approved the first reading of the proposed town budget Thursday, which did not include Moat’s requests to fund paid personnel for the volunteer department.
“They can sit and say, ‘We support the fire department,’ but the other night was a prime example of how they don’t,” Moat said Saturday. “I’m leaving because I can no longer justify putting in full-time-plus hours as a volunteer fire chief in a town where the leadership does not support nor value meeting the demands of the community.”
Moat had said he would tell members of the NVFD following the group’s annual awards banquet Saturday night.
Moat says he will appoint Assistant Chief Maury Gottlieb as the interim fire chief until the members of the Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department (NVFD) could vote on new leadership. He plans to stick around for a few weeks in an advisory role to help ease the transition.
Despite his belief that town leaders planned to work with him to work toward a combination department, Moat said his months of providing the town with grant information and increased call volume data have not been enough to turn the tide.
“This plan was not conceived overnight,” Moat said. “It had been planned and talked about and discussed. I’d gone to the mayor months ago and asked … to let us start stipending members out of our budget so we could ensure coverage, and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
Leaders said the money to fund a combination fire department is not readily available, citing Moat’s original budget request of more than $1 million.
“When you want to justify that you don’t want to spend any money, then you’re gonna pull out that $1.3 million initially proposed budget and say, ‘We can’t afford it.’” Moat said.
Moat said he drafted an amended budget, at the request of Vice Mayor Jason Patrick, which he says was closer to $600,000.
A few members of the BOMA said during Thursday’s meeting that they had never seen a copy of the amended budget.
“My question is this: ‘How can we expect our town leaders, the BOMA members who set the policies and the rules, to…formally make good decisions, solid affirmed decisions, if they’re not getting all the facts and all the information?’” Moat said. “With that, I just don’t have the time nor the capability to go on being part of a system that finds it easier just to say, ‘No.’”
Moat has been with the NVFD for three years, first as the president of the board of directors and then chief since February of 2017. He is a full-time firefighter in Nashville, working about 56 hours a week before he ever puts on his chief hat in Nolensville. Between his full-time job and his position as chief, very little time was left for his personal life.
Moat says his busy schedule takes time away from his family and his cattle farm business. There are many times when Moat’s work schedule in Nashville means he can’t respond to a call in Nolensville. He says he doesn’t feel like his immediate departure as chief will put any “undue hardship” on the department.
“I think, at this point, with everything that’s gone on and all the PR and all the social media, a clean break is probably the best way to do this and just distance myself from the department officially,” Moat said. “I feel a clean break at this point is probably most beneficial for all parties, including myself.”
While Moat says the volunteer membership has increased during his time at the department, so too have the number of calls. As a result, he said the amount of commitment by volunteers was “steadily decreasing.”
With less volunteer commitment, there’s no guarantee someone will be on the other end when the community calls for help.
“We are a volunteer department,” Moat said. “At any moment, no volunteers could show up [to a call].”
Moat says he has tried a number of solutions to ensure the volunteer department was adequately staffed at all times, such as implementing a schedule and mandatory staffing. But Moat says these plans “ultimately force the volunteers out.”
Moat said when he took over as the volunteer chief, he never thought he was the right person for the job in the long term. That’s why, Moat said, he never meant to take the paid chief position he was proposing for the FY 2019-2020 budget.
“I think that this town needs a fire chief from out of the area who does not know anybody in the system and has the experience of running a combination department to come in here and transition the town to a combination department,” Moat said.
Moat said he anticipates some community fallout from his decision to step down, but for him, it’s time.
“I’ve done my part, I’ve committed my energy and my time for a long time, and the time has come. I’ve warned [town leaders] that it’s been coming, I’ve told them, and I think they took it like most things that they do, with a tone deaf stance or a blind eye,” Moat said. “And the time is here.”