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A Few Words of Clarity

December 31, 2010

A Few Words of Clarity

I believe the notes from the most recent County Commission meeting need a little clarity in two areas – removal of firefighter volunteers and the new position of Assistant EM Director.  First, I will explain the volunteer issue and second the EM issue.

Presently, we do not have an attendance requirement for volunteer firefighters in Stafford County.  There are a number of reasons why this can be a problem, but namely the paying of expenses for inactive members and maintaining proficiency. With that said, the downside of implementing higher requirements is that it could adversely affect our volunteer numbers.  There are several areas in the county where our numbers are woefully low.    

The Clerk’s office recently gave me notification that they had terminated 14 volunteers because they had no activity over various long periods.  In the next County Commission meeting I was asked by one of the Commissioners to contact the 14 volunteers.  Between that request and the next week, I was unable to make contact with all the volunteers.  I informed the Commissioners of this at their next meeting. Furthermore, I clarified that regardless of whether I contacted the volunteers, they were already terminated.  I then asked about a policy regarding terminating employees and was told there was none.

I completely understand, and agree, that there needs to be some requirements of activity for volunteers.  But, when we do need to remove a volunteer, I believe it needs to done in a way that’s as positive as possible.  And, that it is done with the Commission’s knowledge and authorization.

My challenge is to decide, with my station chiefs, the benchmark for activity.  And, to enforce that policy so it doesn’t get to the point it did recently. 

The second issue I would like to explain is my proposal to change the classification of an employee.  We presently have an Assistant Fire and an Assistant EMS Director.  My proposal was to change the title of our third full-time employee from Firefighter/EMT to Assistant EM Emergency Management Director. 

I made this request for several reasons.  First, I believe that with four full-time employees, including myself, it makes logical sense to have the three others each serve as an assistant in one of the three disciplines that we oversee – Fire, EMS, and Emergency Management. To perform these three disciplines to an acceptable level requires a full team effort.   

I also discovered that the County can receive upwards of $15,000 annually through State funding if we have paid employees that serve in Emergency Management roles, and we annually complete certain EM activities.      

My proposal was to have our third full-time employee – Nick Lauffer – be re-classified as Assistant EM Director to assist with emergency management duties.  It also seemed logical – since the County would be seeing a significant financial windfall and we would be asking an employee to take on more responsibilities – to increase this person’s pay with the re-classification.

I’m still on a learning curve working in our predominately volunteer system, a much more complicated system than the completely full-time systems I’m accustomed to.  I’ve learned there’s more communication that needs to take place, yet even that is more challenging to perform.  We will strive to make continued improvements in all areas of our emergency service operations, most definitely with process and communications.

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