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Finding a director is the next order of business in the process of moving Carroll toward a countywide fire and EMS system.

After a work session between the Board of County Commissioners and the CCVESA Work Group on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the focus was to finalize a job description so the search for that man or woman can begin. County government staff reviewed the job description and brought recommendations to the work session.

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The next step is to return the job description to the CCVESA work group. The commissioners plan to revisit the topic in open session on their Sept. 19 meeting.

While they don’t anticipate the administrative role to be filled by January — a possible benchmark that had been set previousy — they hope to start receiving applications soon.

The CCVESA work group presented the first rough draft of charter and bylaws documents for a Emergency Services Advisory Council (ESAC) in February 2019. They would serve as an advisory body for the director. The 14 existing county fire companies will retain their identities. They will be grouped into regional groups and overseen by the county director.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz R-District 1 and member of the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company, said finding a director should take place before the charter documents are finalized. That person should have a hand in “building that foundation,” he said, rather than being asked to enforce something already finished.

Tom Coe, the work group’s chairperson and a member of New Windsor Volunteer Fire Company, warned that they would have to factor in spin-up time for the new hire to meet all of the stakeholders and get the lay of of the land.

Coe also described the county’s 14 fire companies as at a “historical point of unity,” and cautioned that if a new director modified the charter documents without seeking their input, that consensus could be in jeopardy.

Much of the wording is specifically chosen, he said. “A lot of this is tied to history.”

Wantz said that should be a consideration in the interview process. If a candidate comes in with a closed mind to local stakeholders, “Interview done,” he said.

One of the more recent developments discussed Tuesday was the choice to name the job a “director” rather than a chief or other administrative title. The reasoning behind “director” was its equivalency to other senior staff members in Carroll County’s government.

There as a consensus to specify that a candidate should have a minimum of Fire Officer Level III qualifications. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the standard for these qualifications and officers may progress from I to IV, supervisory to administrative.

Opinions differed, however, whether the new director should be required to pass a NFPA physical. Some felt that requirement would set the wrong focus for the role. The requirements of the director position are different than those of a fire chief, and the director would be more focused in directing and acting as architect of a system than commanding fire scenes.

Others felt that the director should meet the same physical fitness standards that they will be in charge of enforcing for others.

The commissioners and work group representatives also discussed whether the job listing should require a bachelor’s degree in a fire officer degree program. Some felt that both formal education and real-world experience should be required. Others argued that many degree programs weren’t in existence until recently and that requirement would exclude candidates who’s experience would be sufficient in practice.

They also moved forward to combine the charter document and bylaws document for the ESAC. County staff found that they were about 90% duplicate.

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The county staff had more suggestions for the chartering documents, but the work session did not encompass them all, and discussions on the document will continue with input from all sides.

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