WEIRTON - Weirton City Council will make a decision in September on how a proposed training officer position for the Weirton Fire Department will operate.
Council has been presented with two scenarios for the position.
Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh said city council has taken the last few months to deal with some of the major points of a study on the Weirton Fire Department, completed in December 2011. He said appointing a training officer will help bridge the gap between career and volunteer firefighters and address many other issues outlined in the study.
One of the scenarios discussed, Marsh said, is appointing a civilian administration position who will be dedicated to training 40 hours a week and will not be a firefighter. He said the second scenario would add a third captain's rank to the department, promote a lieutenant and require a new hire.
City Manager Valerie Means said she believed the scenarios were straightforward and each of them had merit. She said the first scenario outlines a non-civil service administration position that the chief would manage. She said the cost, including benefits, to hire someone would be approximately $46,000 to $47,000. She said the individual, perhaps a retiree or anyone that is qualified and interested, would then be a city employee and council would have to amend the salary ordinance to create the position, establish the rate of pay, have two readings of the ordinance and revise the budget accordingly once the individual is hired.
In June, a second scenario was presented that would call for establishing a third captain's position through promoting Lt. Drew Coates, who has voiced his desire to fill the position. The position would require Coates to work 40 hours per week, hold all the required certifications as an instructor and receive a weighted salary.
Means said the hourly rate of pay would have 48 hours of pay rolled into a 40 hour work week and amount to approximately $18.64 per hour. She said Coates would then be eligible for overtime if called out for fire suppression, which could not take place during normal training hours, at a regular captain's salary rate. In addition, she said another individual would be promoted to lieutenant and a new firefighter would be hired for a total cost of approximately $67,000.
"There is a lot of merit to both of these options and we will need to determine the one that has the most benefit," she said.
Fire Chief Jerry Shumate said the department does not have a state academy to send people for training. He said all of the training is done in house and having a dedicated training officer will help. He said Coates already has most of the required qualifications and he is waiting on paperwork.
Council continued to raise questions regarding each scenario, weighing the pros and cons of each. Members of council noted there could be a chance the civilian position may not work out several months into the position and asked what will happen when Coates retires.
Shumate said there are currently six lieutenants he will be preparing to move into the position when Coates does retire. He said anyone working their way into the fire chief position will have incentive to prepare for the training officer position which will keep it filled. He said Coates would also serve as the safety officer on scene to prevent unsafe practices and evaluate the work being performed by the crews.
City council agreed during the recent budget workshop to hold off on making decisions on this and an almost $250,000 surplus, and will address it mid-September during another workshop meeting.
Marsh requested that city council make the appointment of the position a top priority.
(Dickson can be contacted at email@example.com)