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Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Implications of Decisions Made

Updated below:
Much of the reaction to the Fire Commissioners' recent actions has been that sooner or later, someone would get inadequate rescue services because no one would be here to make a timely response to a 911 call.  In mid-September, it was said, such a call had come in and the reponse had indeed been slow.  Chief Carleton was here but he had no backup for awhile.  Eventually, former Chief Skinner arrived and they got a transfer to hospital going.  But it had been very slow.  One commenter on the APB e-edition said he had been listening on his scanner to the call and that Carleton had been frantic.  Others, including Skinner, said there had been no significant problem and that Carleton had done everything correctly.

Just another 'he-says-she-says" story, was my response.  If you have no first hand information of your own, you have no way to judge between two people who tell different stories of the same event.  You might have some feelings about it, but in the face of no information, your feelings really aren't worth much even though some people frequently do like to assert their feelings as if they were facts.

Now, however, the APB's October issue, mentioning this event as an illustration of a larger issue of inadequate EMS coverage, reports that Chief Carleton "acknowledged it took longer than desirable to get the patient transported because they could not rendezvous with the helicopter."  (Italics added.)

To remedy this problem of inadequate coverage, and to try to maintain 5-day coverage, the Chief, again according to the APB, has upped the pay for "a week day coverage shift from $80 to $140" as of October 1.

I've attended all the weekly meetings that have been announced since August 16 except for a 5-minute meeting held last Tuesday afternoon to approve the minutes from the previous meeting.  (A friend attended and described the time sequence and activity immediately after it concluded.)  At no time in those meetings has there been any discussion of increasing pay.  In fact, what little discussion of pay to anyone other than the Chief has been about NOT paying an administrative clerk some $6,000 or $7,000 as had been previously approved.  So who makes these budget decisions and when did they make them?  It's going to cost more than $6,000 to increase the shift pay by 75% over the entire year.  And then there is the additional pay to Assistant Chief Shields.  And the more-than-Kiniski-pay to Carleton.  Whoever was thinking that this "new direction" was going to be a money saver needs to return to his calculator.

Meursing talked transparency at the last meeting.  Such decisions are supposed to be made in public meetings so that the public can evaluate the work of the Commissioners.  Those of us who have been attending the meetings for the past 6 weeks certainly did not see these new pay decisions coming.  Let alone being discussed or being made.

Maybe these are decisions that are somehow delegated to the Chief.  But it doesn't sound like much of a way to make significant decisions about public business if that is the case.

Update: Monday the Commissioners responded to an inquiry about the raising of the stipends:  "Stipends are under the direct control of the fire chief and yes when finalized we will have them on the agenda for commissioners approval."  

Logically, stipends cannot be under the direct control of the fire chief if the Commissioners have to approve them.  The Fire Chief may recommend, but the decision and the responsibility lies with the Commissioners.  The Commissioner speaking for all the Commissioners, says this is a "checks and balance system."  No, it is a direct hierarchy system.  The Commissioners are responsible.  Whether they like it or not.

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