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Geneva Fire Department to be reorganized

GENEVA – The Geneva Fire Department will undergo a reorganization once one of its two deputy chiefs retires in November, officials said.

Aldermen acting as the committee of the whole this week approved creating two more positions of battalion chief to assist with supervision and administrative functions. One position already had been created in 2005, but it was never staffed, officials said.

Each battalion chief position would be filled by current fire lieutenants, one for each 24-hour shift.

The deputy chief for fire prevention would be eliminated and replaced by the position of fire marshal to plan, organize and manage the fire prevention division, officials said.

Three firefighter positions then would become vacant, filled only once it’s financially possible, officials said.

The reorganization would cost $60,000 for the current fiscal year, City Administrator Mary McKittrick said. 

“We’re actually adding two new positions … [because] one of those positions we already had – we just had it vacant for several years because of budget cuts,” McKittrick said. “Adding two new people is what it would entail eventually, if the budget allows.”

In future years, the extra cost of the increase in staff would be $265,000 annually, officials said.

The battalion chiefs’ salaries will range from $84,457 to $120,214, and the fire marshal’s salary will range from $78,283 to $111,461. Their actual salaries will depend upon their current salary. Officials will follow the rules for promotion set out in the Personnel Policy Manual, Assistant City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins wrote in an email.

The battalion chiefs will be selected through a promotional process by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, with any current lieutenant eligible to compete, Dawkins said.  

Officials anticipate that firefighter Phil Affrunti will move into the fire marshal position, Dawkins said.

Deputy Chief Jerry Koster is expected to retire in November, so none of the changes will occur until after that, Dawkins said.

Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg asked what Fire Chief Steve Olson does during his shift.

“You can understand a battalion chief is for those shifts when the chief is not present,” Kilburg said. “What does the chief do during his shift? In other words, if you’re there during the day –  and this was a question I was asked and I couldn’t answer it – you already have an administrator in charge at the station.”

Olson said the department has three people working 40 hours.

“Currently what happens is – and has happened the last 25 to 30 years – if there is a call … whatever we are doing at our desk or whatever we are doing, we drop it and respond to it,” Olson said. 

“So now the work we’re supposed to get done on a daily basis is delayed,” Olson said. “When this happens repeatedly throughout the day, it’s very choppy, very inefficient and it’s become much more of an issue as we become a busier agency.”

Olson said battalion chiefs would be in charge of day-to-day operations, allowing him to complete his workload.

Olson said he would still be on call when a battalion chief has scheduled time off or is ill.

Part of the impetus for the reorganization was a recommendation to evaluate hiring a battalion chief to assist with supervision and administrative functions, which was made during a site accreditation visit in 2006, officials said. 

And during the Vorhees and Associates staffing analysis in 2012, consultants also recommended funding a battalion chief.

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