SPRINGFIELD— Residents can expect to have six new firefighters in place before the June 1 deadline set by Insurance Services Inc. (ISO).
Commissioners voted at a meeting Monday to hire the six firefighters, outfit each with $12,042 worth of equipment and promote a fire chief. The vote did not come easy, as commissioners split 3-2, then reconsidered the firefighters chosen and voted 4-1 for a revised list.
The motion to reconsider the initial hires proposed by Commissioner Jimmy Talley came after Mayor Ralph Hammond informed commissioners the final hire of the six, Kenneth Demouy, would be a “liability.”
Hammond and Commissioner Robert Curti were the opposing votes to the initial list of hires.
Hammondsaid he was going by the recommendations made by the Springfield Civil Service Board, a group appointed to evaluate applicants and rank them according to several factors.
“I go with their recommendation because that is what we pay them for,” Hammond said. “I don’t want to bring anybody into the city that is going to be a liability.”
Talley suggested the issue was political, as Demouy supported himself and the former mayor, Robert Walker. Talley was the sole dissenting vote against the revised list, which removed Demouy.
“Everybody is going to have issues, and he had a lot of experience and a lot to offer the city,” Talley said. “I think it was personal and political.”
Demouy could not be contacted for comment.
ISO informed commissioners in October the city’s rating would increase — homeowners would pay more for insurance — without the additional firefighters to meet staffing level requirements.
Hiring the six increased the city’s budget for fire services by about $477,000, and commissioners voted in March to levy a special assessment fee on property owners to pay for the measures. For each tax parcel, 62 cents per $1,000 of the value of improvements (not land value) was approved, plus $88.31 per tax parcel.
Commissioners on Monday also promoted Assistant Chief Michael Laramore to the position of chief with a 4-1 vote. Talley was the dissenting vote.
Talley voiced concerns over qualifications during the city’s last meeting. The listed qualifications presented by Talley included10 years experience as a certified firefighter, five in a supervisory position as lieutenant or higher; a diploma or equivalent; accountability procedures; biological waste disposal procedures and an associate degree in fire science.
Laramore said he would increase current standards within the fire department and attempt to get the accreditation.
“I’m going to work as much as I can to get my degrees,” Laramore said.
Before voting against the promotion, Talley said he would support Laramore.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world [Laramore] can do the job,” Talley said. “I just feel like we should have a chief with a degree because of the type of science that fire is now.”
Also Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to spend $12,042 to equip the new firefighters with coats, pants, suspenders, boots, helmets, gloves and shields.