County EMA coordinator retires after 34 years of service

County EMA coordinator retires after 34 years of

EPA coordinator James W. Pitchford announced his retirement at the Oct. 1 Macoupin County Public Safety committee meeting. His 34 years of service will end December 31 of this year.

By: JORDAN GRUCZA

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

The Macoupin County Public Safety Committee approved to accept the letter of resignation of Emergency Management Agency coordinator James Pitchford after more than 30 years of service to the community on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Among Pitchford’s many efforts over the years is assisting with  emergency services for Hurricane Andrew, the 1993 flooding, and the 2011 flooding in Cairo, where it was decided to knock a levy down and allowing the flood water to spread, saving 3.2 million acres of land.

Pitchford took the job in 1985 after his predecessor, James Bertanolli, was killed on the job.

“I just want to say thank you to the county board members,” Pitchford said. “I’ve served under four different board chairmen, and this is the most active committee we’ve had in the last 34 years. This public safety committee has actually taken an interest in emergency management. I’ve had tremendous support from Mark Dragovich and from Pete Duncan.”

Other efforts Pitchford has been apart of are strategically-staged emergency generators throughout Macoupin County, as well as well as draining 14 million gallons of water from the Bunker Hill Reservoir in the search for missing person Denita Hedden of Royal Lakes.

Pitchford’s final day on the job will be Dec. 31, 2019.

In other actions, the committee approved a motion to enter into discussions with the 911 board to take over EMA responsibilities in Pitchford’s absence. It was noted by the board that they had a limited amount of time before the 911 board could receive proper training.

“Well, I’m not dying,” Pitchford said. “I’ll be available to help for a while.”

The committee also approved a motion to make a “payout” to Pitchford, covering unused hours in sick days and vacation time. Pitchford noted that this was not the kind of job he was able to take a vacation.

“I always accepted the job as 24/7, 365 days a year,” Pitchford said.

Pitchford said his passion for the job was never about the money, but he did seek to be treated fairly. The total amount for hours due came to $32,095.68. The committee unanimously approved “up to” this amount, as Pitchford is still able to take time off until the end of the year.

County Clerk Pete Duncan noted that, as the fiscal year has just begun, there is still money in the budget for the EMA that they can use for this payout, as well as $20,000 budgeted for general retirement funds, so the payment would not be an issue for the county.

Next meeting

The next Macoupin County Public Safety Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m.