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Chief, assistant respond to AVFD accusations

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The Ellis County Press

AVALON – Roy Scruggs and Jimmy Mitchell are at the center of a debate over the future of Avalon’s volunteer fire department, an entity that could find itself being dismantled and taken over by the local emergency services district, one of nine taxing entities in the county charged with fire protection.

The accusations of "misappropriation of funds" came up during an AVFD board meeting last Tuesday, a meeting in which Mitchell was asked to resign.

Mitchell, who also serves as the fire marshal for Avalon’s ESD, said he complied with the AVFD’s request, but he noted he remains in "good standing" with the department.

Scruggs was put on suspension pending the outcome of an investigation into why $6,000 in cell phone bills were being charged over the span of two years.

Scruggs said he and his wife, the treasurer of Avalon’s ESD, both have cell phones, but due to the county’s radio system not functioning in the southern part of the county, firemen had to rely on cell phones.

There was only one case in which a fireman didn’t pay his bill, but that issue was resolved, Scrugg said.

While admitting to going over his allotted minutes, Scruggs said he’s the target of false accusations.

The AVFD allege Scruggs’ wife is using the ESD board – five members appointed by county commissioners – to try to dismantle their board and control the fire equipment.

AVFD equipment, trucks and other supplies were paid for mostly by the taxpayers of Avalon’s ESD, Scruggs said, but he denied his wife was retaliating.

"She’s just the treasurer and the vote was unanimous" to have the AVFD agree to a consolidation.

The ESD has given the volunteer board until May 31 to turn over all documents, equipment and supplies, according to a public meeting last week.

Scruggs said one fire board is enough to serve the citizens in that area.

Mitchell, meanwhile, said he’s wanting to serve the community but wants to bring awareness to the radio equipment issue.

Firemen across the county reportedly told county commissioners not to go with a bid from ComTex for radio equipment due to their lack of functionality, but the contract was approved anyway.

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