The Village of South Jacksonville is one baby step closer to having a full time fire chief.
Last night, the village approved a transition to a full-time fire chief position. The ordinance that passed last night allows a couple of members of the fire department to temporarily run the fire department for current part-time Fire Chief Richard Evans, Jr. while the village works out particulars on creating a job description, salary schedule, and legal procedures for creating the new position in the village.
Village President Mike Broaddus explained why to the board he wanted to get the transition passed last night: “November 1st is the cut-off period for the fire department for their pay, okay? That’s when they get their Christmas check. They only get paid once a year – that’s their stipend and their pay. So, if we don’t get Rich now and we try to do it later on in the year, basically then what we are going to have to do is pay his stipend and all the calls he’s been on plus move him to salary. That’s why I’m so in favor of getting this done now, and there is also other projects that needs attention. We need to get our fire district [set up]. We need to get the ambulance going, but the thing is, we need Rich to have time. Rich is amazing, and he can’t keep going with what he’s doing. He can’t keep working a full-time job and giving of himself like this. There’s a toll on his family. We keep talking about this every month, and we keep pushing the can down the road.”
Broaddus says that the board deserves to give Evans an answer on whether he will become the full time chief or not by the end of the month. Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart raised questions prior to the vote about the legal ramifications of creating a position specifically for a person without opening up the newly created position to the public at large to apply for it.
She says the questions arise from following proper procedure and also wanting to protect Evans from potentially being outbid by another person to come in and apply for the position. She also said she wished to avoid what had happened in the recent past: “Currently, we are facing 3 positions that were created without [the board] approving them. We haven’t dealt with those yet. We are creating a position that we don’t even have a job description for yet nor a salary range. I’m also confused about if we are creating a new position, I don’t feel it’s legal. If we already have someone in a part-time position, you just can’t create a new position and not open it, I would assume. What if there are full time chiefs somewhere else that want to apply? I’m playing devil’s advocate. Are we creating a position for this person or are you creating a position for the Village? This is the discussion we have not had.” Stewart said she was 100% in favor of creating the transition to begin discussion of actually creating the position.
Evans says overall the passage of the transition is the step in the right direction to move the department forward: “The duties that come with this position and the growing community. We are not a sleepy little village anymore. There’s a huge gap not being filled with just the daily duties to keep up with on the fire department. The community relations with businesses, the citizens, and also looking at our ambulance service coming back; we need somebody there to oversee the daily operations of it all. There is also a lot of time that’s put into administrative work.”
Evans says once the job is officially created and he is hired, he has several long-term goals for the department, including continued grant writing to update equipment on an annual basis and possibly transitioning the department to a hybrid department where 2 to 3 firefighters are considered to be employed full-time and on call 24 hours a day.
The village board is expected to reach a consensus or possibly will create an action item for a special vote at the end of the month’s scheduled committee of the whole meeting.