Archive for Thursday, January 10, 2008

Council to decide on fire chief

January 10, 2008

Changes are brewing for the Baldwin City Fire Department.

At Monday night's Baldwin City Council meeting, City Administrator Jeff Dingman explained the need to change the organization of the department, as well as modify the full-time position, the first paid position for the volunteer department, to be the fire chief.

"We budgeted for a full-time firefighter and he started in October," said Dingman. "He resigned in mid December for various reasons, including answering both to the fire chief and the city administrator.

"The chain of command didn't work out," he said. "I would like to put us in a position where the paid employee is the fire chief."

It spurred quite a discussion with the council. Allen Craig has been fire chief of the volunteer department for decades.

"In my mind, it cleans it up quite a bit," said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "It would put the fire chief as a city employee."

Dingman said he'd told Craig and other officers of the department about the change last week and they were supportive. He said the budgeted figure would need to be bumped up from $40,000 to $50,000. He was asked who would apply for that money.

"I went through Eudora who hired a chief for $50,000," he said. "It really is to be seen what we can get for that."

"It was not controversial when we talked about this in safety committee, but we knew there would be more money involved," said Council Member Tony Brown.

Council Member Ken Wagner noted that the position couldn't be filled right away if the move was made.

"Do we continue on with the structure we have until this person is found?" said Wagner.

That's when the biggest point was made by Council Member Doyle Jardon. He reminded the council that the reason they went with the full-time firefighter was to have someone between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to fight fires. That's when the majority of the volunteers are out of town working.

"The full-time firefighter was to fight fires, not be a fire chief," said Jardon, himself a volunteer on the Palmyra Township Fire Department.

He pointed out that the fire chief stays outside of the fires and is on the radio and directing the firefighting efforts.

"The guy with the white hat on doesn't go in," he said.

Dingman agreed that the original plan was for a firefighter during those times, but was directed by the council to adjust the job description for the new fire chief to fight fires.

"Part of this is to have someone on call from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to respond to calls," said Dingman.

"I agree with Doyle," said Council Member Ted Brecheisen Jr. "This is supposed to be someone to be able to fight a fire."

The measure passed on first reading by a 4-1 vote, with Jardon casting the dissenting vote. It will be up for second reading at the council's next meeting on Jan. 22. The Tuesday rather than Monday meeting is because of Martin Luther King Day on Monday. The time remains the same at 7:30 p.m.

Attempts to reach Craig were unsuccessful.

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