Fire district eyes duties of top-paid managers

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Kling cites expanding administrative costs

By Vicky Gits

The fire district is taking a critical look at job duties of certain highly paid employees, following an initiative spearheaded by board member George Kling.

Kling has in the past been critical of some of the board’s financial and personnel decisions.

The latest effort follows successful downgrading of the human resources manager position from full-time to part-time, provisional for six months, and an administrative assistant from part-time permanent to part-time provisional, also for six months.

At the April 14 regular meeting, the district board voted unanimously to authorize the fire chief to obtain one-page “summaries of tasks and hours spent per task on a monthly basis” for three positions, according to the meeting minutes.

The analysis will address three top management positions: deputy chief of support services, communications director and training coordinator. Other jobs may be addressed in the future.

The jobs in line for initial scrutiny are among the highest paid on the fire department paid staff, other than those of Fire Chief Garry DeJong and Fire Marshal Frank Dearborn.

The deputy chief of support services and emergency medical services reports to the fire chief and earns $84,000 annually. The communications manager is paid $67,000, and the training coordinator makes $53,000 (based on 2008 data).

The Courier obtained salary data from the district through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We are in a process of discovery right now. I didn’t recommend we eliminate anything,” said Kling, who initiated the resolution on the job/duties analysis.

“We have had some growth (in salaries), and I just want to make sure the organization is right-sized. … I did my own math based on district numbers. I’m not trying to send a message that I have all the answers. I’m just willing to work to get the right answers.”

The idea of examining jobs for increased efficiency is not being driven by a forthcoming budget shortfall, said Chick Dykeman, president of the board.

“We are just looking at how we spend the money, not cutting costs. If we were cutting costs, we would eliminate things. I see no justification based on any downturn in the revenue. I think the budget is exceptionally well done, and we are in good shape financially,” Dykeman said.

“As far as I’m concerned, everybody is earning their money and working as hard as they can,” Dykeman said. He doesn’t see anything wrong with gathering information on how people are earning their money.

Kling delivered a presentation to the board showing that salaries, as a percentage of the total budget, had grown from 17 percent in 2000 to 28.6 percent in 2008.

The 2009 budget pays for 38 employees, consisting of 33 full-time and five part-time positions. Total payroll and benefits constituted $1.8 million in projected expense, compared to an overall budget of $4.1 million in 2009. Evergreen Fire responds to about 2,000 emergency-rescue and fire calls a year.

Kling said he doesn’t want to eliminate anybody’s job; he just wants to figure out “what’s necessary versus what’s a luxury.”

“I wasn’t comfortable giving the presentation. I didn’t like it. But the companies that don’t manage proactively are the ones that are bankrupt,” he said.

Kling asked for a report deadline of the next regular meeting May 12, with a possible action deadline of the July 14 regular meeting.

In the 2009 budget, employees received an across-the-board 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase. An added $37,000 was allocated toward merit increases, which were given at supervisors’ discretion.

DeJong described the assignment as a “research” task and said he would follow the direction of the board.



Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department Officers 2009

The following volunteers were elected to positions for 2009:

• Sean Wood, president

• Richard Hansen, vice president

• Mike Gregory, treasurer

• Paige Maslow, secretary