CCFD says it’s falling behind without training officer

Published 10:21 am Friday, August 10, 2018

The Clark County Fire Department is starting to fall behind because it doesn’t have a training officer, according to a letter sent to the Clark County Fiscal Court.

The letter signed by the department’s three battalion chiefs, Ben Wright, William Puckett and Will Jordan, said adding new employees on shifts adds extra work because there is not a training officer.

Presently, battalion chiefs are overseeing the training and Chief Ernie Barnes is doing much of the fire marshal duties, which includes inspections. Both take away from their regular duties, Barnes said.

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“In short, we have cut services,” Barnes said. “The taxpayers are not receiving the services they require. This is holding up big stuff like promotions. It just keeps dragging it out.”

For several months, Barnes has asked the fiscal court to amend a job description in the county pay plan from battalion chief, training officer and fire marshal to simply training officer and fire marshal. The latter position is listed in the county personnel manual, while the former is what is listed in the pay play.

Barnes also wants to increase the salaries for the three battalion chiefs over the training officer, which carries the rank of major, to create separation between the ranks.

“Due to a lack of a training officer, placing new personnel on shift (currently) creates an extra workload on an already understaffed department,” the battalion chiefs wrote. “It also affects continuity of training and scheduling and implementation of training. We are not opposed to making a job offer to qualified candidates, but strongly feel like it was detrimental to operations by giving them a start date without a training officer in place.”

The fiscal court, though, has deferred taking any action. Several magistrates said they wanted to do one action that would affect everyone at the department. Another said he wanted to wait for the result of a fire study before taking any action.

Wednesday, Barnes said he has not advertised the fire marshal/training officer position because it is not in the pay plan. The vacancy is starting to create issues within the department, as it tries to recruit and train new firefighters.

“We have a problem we have to fix from the top down or across the board,” Barnes said. “We can’t fix it by pushing up from the bottom.”

Magistrate Daniel Konstantopoulos said the consensus seems to be to take one action and fix everything, rather than phase changes in over time.

“It’s going to cost us money,” Konstantopoulos said.

“It’s something we need to do because our fire department is falling behind daily,” Magistrate Sheila McCord said.

Magistrate Pam Blackburn said she wanted to see Barnes and the fire committee come up with a compromise.

“How many months are we into this? Three? Four? I hope you all can come to a conclusion,” she said.

In other action Wednesday, the fiscal court:

— approved the first reading of an ordinance issuing educational development revenue bonds for The Lexington School Project. There will be no cost to the county.

— approved the second reading of an ordinance to refinance bonds for Sayre Christian Village Nursing Home.

— approved the second reading of an ordinance to rezone property on Flanagan Station Road from A-1 agricultural to B-3 business.

— referred a proposal to bid two bridge projects back to the county road committee for further discussion.

— approved an order to hire Norma Shuler as an administrative assistant in the judge-executive’s office.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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