Five on-call firefighters sign on; board split on decision

Fire officials adding staff to help man three fire stations.

Fire officials adding staff to help man three fire stations.

FLINT TWP. — Five new on-call firefighters have signed on, but not with full approval from the township board.

In a 4-3 vote to approve conditional offers of employment, Township Supervisor Karyn Miller and trustees Barb Vert and Belenda Parker voted no.

Vert and Miller did not give a reason but Parker said she would prefer that each candidate be voted on individually.

“There are some (candidates) I don’t have a problem with offering conditional employment, but there are a couple I will not support,” she said.

She declined to make an amended motion so the board moved ahead with a motion already on the floor to hire all candidates at once.

Three of the new hires are experienced fire fighters who will immediately bolster the on-call staff but the other two will have to attend the Fire Academy in October, said Mike Burkley, assistant fire chief.

The new hires are:

•David DuFresne and Rick Keltner who have Michigan Fire Fighter Training Council (MFFTC) Certifications for Fire Fighter I and II, Hazardous Materials and Driver Training.

•Bennie Griggs and Wilson Lard who will require training

•Kenneth McNally who has MFFTC Certification for Fire Fighter I & II.

Burkley said that all candidates have successfully completed police background checks and must now pass an oral interview, written test, physical agility test and physical and drug tests.

Prior to approving the employment offers, township board members held a lengthy discussion about offering conditional employment before the candidates complete all required testing.

Trustee Vert asked why medical testing is done last.

Burkley said the medical test is saved for last because it cost more – about $450. He stressed that the conditional hires could get eliminated at any step during the testing process, for example during agility testing which is scheduled to be take place, Saturday, June 20 at the Clio Fire Department.

“At any point they could get washed out,” Burkley said.

Police Chief George Sippert noted that conditional offers must be in place in order to receive confidential testing results back for each applicant. He also noted that background checks his staff conducts are not extensive. They are derived from generally available public records. Detailed follow-up background checking is left up to fire department officials, he said.

Burkley confirmed that the applicants driving records have been checked.

This action comes after recent complaints by some residents that fire response time is too slow.

Gerald Roberts, a resident and frequent board critic, said during public comment that he observed at a recent fire that fire trucks from neighboring municipalities arrived on scene before the township’s fire truck. He said it was because the closest township fire department was not staffed.

Dave Huffman, a resident and frequent board critic, agreed.

“I find it an embarrassment … about the response time when we can get better response from Flushing and Swartz Creek than we can from our own fire department,’’ Huffman said of the faster mutual aid response.

Referencing the ten-year Public Safety Millage voter passed in November, expected to generate about $3 million a year to hire more staff, Huffman said residents are paying taxes for services they are not getting.

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