By Jeff Gallatin
Administration officials have offered City Council the alternatives of training five shift firefighters in inspections or hiring a part-time inspector for the department to handle the duties.
Fire Chief Chris Lyons outlined the proposals to City Council during the Monday night council meeting.
Both administration and council officials have been looking for ways to handle department inspections since fire prevention and inspection responsibilities were moved to shift duties as council and the administration looked for ways to deal with the continuing tight municipal budget. Council members have expressed a preference for having shift officers handle inspection duties, but Lyons and Mayor Debbie Sutherland have expressed reservations about having regular shift personnel handle inspections on a regular basis, saying it would be better to have them available for regular day-to-day duties and emergency situations.
Sutherland said she would prefer to utilize the part-time inspector option, but said both options are workable for the city.
“I still have reservations about using shift personnel for inspections on a regular basis, and would prefer the using the part-time alternative,” Sutherland said. “But training the additional firefighters to handle the inspection duties would give us the flexibility to have at least two firefighters per shift who would be able to handle inspection duties.”
In the training proposal, giving five additional shift firefighters that training would give the department seven total members since Lyons and the former fire prevention and inspection officer are already trained. Administration officials’ initial estimates are that it would cost $33,000 initially to train the firefighters, with an additional $9,000 for ongoing training and certification.
Lyons said having two firefighters on each shift trained for inspections would enable the department to have at least one member available for the duties even if the other is on a regular day off or on vacation.
Hiring a part-time inspector would likely entail bringing in a retired firefighter. The part-time position would be limited to 25 hours per week at a rate of $25 per hour, and would only handle inspections and the related administrative work. The inspector would not be counted as on duty for a shift or emergency situation. The position would cost about $30,000 annually, administration officials estimate.
Lyons said he still believes creating another administrative position such as an assistant chief would be the best solution.
“When they did the regional fire district study, they noted that the department is short in administrative personnel,” he said. “When the study was completed, the Bay Village Fire Department had a ratio of 7.41 percent of administrative staff to total personnel, and that was with a chief and fire prevention officer. The study said the typical administrative percentage range for a career full-time member department is 10 to 15 percent. Without an inspector, we’re down to 4 percent.”
Lyons said another administrator would give the department more flexibility.
“With the other administrative position, then we could have shift personnel handle smaller inspections such as the small businesses, while the administrator could handle larger facilities and other needed administrative duties.”
Lyons said he is trying to offer different alternatives so the city inspection duties can be handled one way or another.
Mike Young, chairman of City Council’s Finance Committee, said a blend of different options could be the best option for the city.
“I wasn’t aware that we didn’t have many people who were certified to do the inspections, so obviously could put a crimp in it to pull them off shift at anytime,” Young said. “So, perhaps we could get others the necessary training and get a retired officer to do it – even if it’s for a few months. A blend may be the best way for us to go right now.”