Thread: safer award that sounds odd
06-09-2014, 09:43 PM #1
safer award that sounds odd
Anyone else think this is a little strange?
Volunteer dept awarded 2.9 mil . hiring grant
City career Dept. awarded 1 mil hiring grant
But the city is doing the hiring and using the volunteer award funds ?????
Obviously they don't care what all the new hires will do when laid off in 2 years when the fed handout goes away.
The great welfare trough rides on.
STAMFORD, Conn. — The Fire Commission voted this week to hire eight volunteer firefighters after an application process that the city's fire union criticized as markedly different from the vetting its members undergo.
The hires stem from a recent legal settlement between the city and Turn of River volunteer fire department. As part of an agreement to resolve its 2013 lawsuit against the city, Turn of River received unprecedented input on the hiring of the eight city firefighters.
Stamford Professional Fire Fighters Association President Brendan Keatley condemned the hiring process, which was open only to active Stamford volunteer firefighters. Unlike other fire department hires, the volunteer applicants did not have to take a written exam or be physically certified before sitting down for interviews with the Fire Commission.
"The method that the city administration is using to select these new firefighter candidates detours around established civil service rules and requirements, sidestepping the established civil service hiring list, and grants preferential treatment to a select group," Keatley wrote in a June 2 letter to the commission.
Another factor that prompted the unusual hiring process was a $2.9 million grant awarded to the volunteer department. Turn of River applied for and received the funding directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forcing the city to agree to a separate application process for some firefighters hired with the grant money.
Even though the process was different, city officials said the hiring was nonetheless compliant with civil service and federal employment regulations.
"As far as I'm concerned all the civil service rules were followed," Fire Chief Peter Brown said last week. "(The union's) concerns are because it's different and they weren't intimately involved in the whole negotiation for this management agreement with Turn of River. But to move forward, we had to move out of the courthouse."
The all-volunteer and chronically understaffed Turn of River Fire Department applied last year for FEMA's Staffing For Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant. The $2.9 million award can only be used to hire new firefighters for two years; the money cannot be redirected to offset the salaries of employees already on the department's payroll.
This spring, Turn of River Fire Chief Frank Jacobellis said the grant would allow the department to hire 24 firefighters.
Since the grant was awarded directly to Turn of River, city officials were forced to compromise on how the money would be used or risk losing out completely on the funding. The resulting agreement, which also settled outstanding litigation between the city and Turn of River, allotted eight of the 24 hiring spots directly to volunteer firefighters. The other 16 hires will go through the city's regular hiring process.
The city's Director of Human Resources Clemon Williams said the grant created an "unusual circumstance," but defended the hiring process.
"Do you want the citizens of Stamford to receive the best firefighting services they can?" Williams said last week. "Do you want to do it with the least amount of money possible? In that regard it really helps the city, because we have alternative funding sources. Unfortunately, to get these alternative funding sources there were some strings attached."
Keatley, however, said the city failed to perform due diligence in its eagerness to take advantage of nearly $3 million in federal funds. The eight volunteer firefighters will be permanent city employees — with associated health and retirements costs — long after the grant expires, he said.
"The city just sees this federal money and they say, `Let's grab it,' " Keatley said. "You got this grant and now you're basically usurping existing civil service law and creating a whole new mechanism for hiring people."
Jacobellis, however, said he believes the eight firefighters selected by the Fire Commission were well vetted and are qualified to join the city's Fire Department.
"It's a really good mix of people from all different backgrounds and all different (volunteer) departments," Jacobellis said Friday. "I think when the dust settles, the union is going to be very pleased by the people that are coming on."
The hiring process
Under city Charter, the Fire Commission has "the sole power" of appointing and promoting career firefighters. The commission comprises five members, who were appointed by Mayor David Martin shortly after he took office Dec. 1.
The commission held a special June 2 meeting to interview the 44 volunteers who applied for the eight open positions. The meeting was video recorded, but by Friday evening the recording was still unavailable for public viewing.
Typically, a firefighter who applies to work for the City of Stamford must have Candidate Physical Abilities Test certification before they can be considered for hiring, Brown confirmed.
The test, which applicants pay $150 for out of pocket, certifies that firefighters are physically and mentally capable of fighting fires. Applicants must be able to perform eight flexibility, cardio, strength and endurance challenges within 10 minutes and 20 seconds.
But the eight volunteers interviewed last week were not required to have CPAT certification. Instead, applicants were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire on their training and experience.
"The city worked that out with us," Jacobellis said. "What they did was they used everyone's experience, their certifications, everything on their resume as their exam. What really made each applicant shine was during their interview process, when they had a chance to show what they're made of."
The eight firefighters selected by the Fire Commission were sent conditional offers of employment last week. They must get CPAT certification, pass a background test and undergo a physical exam before they can begin work with the fire department, Williams said.
"You have to be qualified," Williams said. "You have to be able to carry a certain amount of weight and do various things in order to show that you're fit enough to be a firefighter. They will also be required to join Local 786 and remit their dues in accordance with the union contract."
Fire Commission Chairman Frank Melzer refused to comment on the interview process last week, saying instead an Advocate reporter could pose questions to the entire commission at its Tuesday meeting.
"I can see the direction this is going in and I can see it's going to be controversial and I really don't feel comfortable answering these questions," Melzer said Friday.
The FEMA grant funds the new hires' salaries and benefits for two years, during which time all 24 firefighters will be stationed at Turn of River. The firefighters will automatically become city employees when the grant funding runs out, according to Turn of River and the city's legal agreement.
Keatley said he is not convinced that the $2.9 million grant is enough to hire 24 firefighters. He pointed out that the Stamford Fire Department recently received its own $1 million SAFER grant from FEMA and only expects the funding to cover six new hires. Keatley said he doesn't understand how Turn of River's grant of less than three times that amount can pay for four times as many firefighters.
"Where's this money coming from?" Keatley said.
Turn of River Fire Chief Frank Jacobellis said he believes the discrepancy stems from the fact that the volunteer department calculated less expensive benefit packages when they applied for the grant.
"I think that's where the difference is — the full benefit package that a city of Stamford firefighter gets, they do very well," Jacobellis said. "Us being a private corporation, there's only so much we could offer that way."
After receiving the grant, however, Turn of River and the city decided as part of their legal agreement that the 24 firefighters would be added to the city payroll.
"Regardless of what is covered by the full grant, it's going to save the city a lot of money," Jacobellis said. "We're talking about $3 million. That's why the city really wanted us to move forward with it."
Director of Public Safety Ted Jankowski acknowledged that the $2.9 million grant will not quite cover the cost of 24 new hires.
"The other funding will come from (department) savings from having hired the firefighters," he said Friday.
The Board of Finance will discuss Turn of River's FEMA grant at its next meeting, which is open to the public, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday on the fourth floor of the Government Center. The Fire Commission's next meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Station 1 headquarters on Main Street, it is also open to the public.
06-10-2014, 10:22 AM #2Kurt Bradley
Fire/EMS/EMA Grant Consultant
" Never Trade Skill for Luck"
06-11-2014, 11:12 PM #3
It is very confusing reading as written.
Condensed readers digest version::
Turn of river vol dept covers part of stamford Ct.
The stamford career dept covers the other part of Stamford.
Management of the city has been cutting funding to the vol dept drastically over the past few years.
Some stories say they want to take over with city run career dept.
Current times: Both the city career dept & the volunteer department apply for and get awarded SAFER grants for hiring. 2.9 for the vol & 1 mil for the career dept , both for hiring.
Now due to a negotiated court settlement the city is going to hire 8 of the vols & make them city employees using the money granted to the separate volunteer department .???????
Any clearer now. ????
just as clear as a florida swamp if you ask me.
Things that make you go HUMMMMM.
Last edited by islandfire03; 06-11-2014 at 11:15 PM.
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