The Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Board is considering appointing a new acting chief at its next meeting.
With assistant chief, and current acting chief, Chad Hamilton set to leave the district by the end of the year, and Chief Bradley George still on suspension pending an investigation, the board could decide if it will appoint an acting chief and who that might be at its next meeting.
According to Jon Salyer, human resources manager and public information officer for the district, he spoke to an attorney for the district, Brian Butcher, on the matter of an acting chief, given that the situation with George is “in limbo” and Hamilton is leaving the district. He said Butcher said the board does not have to appoint an acting chief, that Salyer could handle the administrative aspects and captains could handle the three shifts.
But Salyer said he thought it would be in the district’s best interest to appoint an acting chief rather than spread the leadership across four people.
Board members will take the time between now and the next meeting to consider the appointment.
Salyer said he has also received resumes from interested people for the positions of chief and assistant chief, which had been advertised for previously at the request of board President Dan Mathews as a safeguard for the district. Salyer said the district is still taking resumes, and qualified individuals interested in the positions should contact him by email at email@example.com.
George has been on suspension since early July, first due to a pending investigation, then as a punitive measure after it was determined in a hearing that charges of gross negligence, malfeasance, and failure to show good behavior were true, and then he was suspended again due to another pending investigation.
As to that, Salyer said he had no new information on the current investigation of George on Tuesday.
At the board’s last meeting, Hamilton announced that he could be leaving the district for a position in the Columbus-area, but told The Times-Gazette at the time that nothing was certain yet. On Tuesday, he said little on the matter, only that his last day with Paint Creek would likely be Dec. 31.
On another matter, the board is considering spending about $270,000 over the next three years for 43 new air packs, a necessity for the firefighters. The matter has been brought before the board a few times over the last few months, and a demonstration was given recently of the packs preferred by crew.
Air packs are standard firefighting equipment and protect a firefighter from the deadly atmosphere within a burning structure. An individual air pack includes the harness by which an air cylinder is held, an air cylinder, face mask, regulator, and various safety features that improve safety in a fire.
A total of 43 air packs, with the company adding a spare cylinder for each pack at no charge, would cost the district about $270,000, or about $90,000 in lump sum payments per year over the next three years.
Board members’ main concerns, based on questions Tuesday, seemed to center around the need to purchase all the air packs at one time.
According to Capt. Bill Strain, 32 of the district’s air packs are “basically obsolete,” and are too old to upgrade. Another 12, he said, are still upgradeable if parts can be found, which is not easy because of the age of the air packs.
Board member Travis Mootz on Tuesday asked Hamilton why this wasn’t brought to the board before this year instead of last year or the year before that.
Hamilton said he couldn’t answer that question because last year and the year before he wasn’t responsible for the fire equipment. He said he brought it to the board’s attention when he became aware of the situation.
“It’s not an ideal situation, but we are in this situation,” the acting chief said.
“Remember, these are the only thing between the fireman and the heat,” Hamilton said. Later, he added, “Our job is hard enough without doing it in sub-par equipment.”
Hillsboro representative and non-voting board member Lee Koogler asked Hamilton if the expense was “sustainable.” Hamilton said he believed it was.
Board members received a 2016 budget proposal earlier on Tuesday, with the air packs’ yearly payment included. Members said they will take the next couple of weeks to review the proposed budget, consider whether to purchase the air packs, and return to the next meeting prepared to make a decision.
At its last meeting the board authorized payment of more than $20,000 in back pay for the district’s first three years to affected employees. On Tuesday, board clerk Jim Barrett said those checks will be paid on Friday.
As previously reported, the board in September authorized the back pay of more than $77,000 to employees found to have not been paid for overtime over a two-year period, from 2013 and into 2015.
The investigations were separate, according to Salyer, because a federal mandate only allowed for the district to go back two years. Anything further than two years became a civil matter.
The Paint Creek fire board holds regular meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 7 p.m. at the N. Washington Street station. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.