Miami Township Directors | Firefighter Compensation, Retention Talks Continue • The Yellow Springs News

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Miami Township Trustees continued last week to discuss firefighter compensation and retention — a discussion that will now be joined by a former Mifflin Township fire chief, and is expected to culminate at an upcoming Monday, May 20, meeting of the trustees.

As previously reported by the News, the discussion comes after a resolution proposed by Interim Fire Chief Dennis Powell at an April 1 trustees meeting would see three firefighter/EMTs reclassified as full-time, retired employees.

Miami Township Fire-Rescue, or MTFR, currently employs four full-time, retired employees, and the roster also includes firefighters/EMTs who work 36 hours per week and receive benefits but are not eligible for retirement.

Trustees and Powell discussed the issue at regular meetings on April 1 and 15, mostly in private closed sessions. However, during a public hearing, the trustees and chief all discussed different aspects of the issue of maintaining adequate staff and maintaining a publicly funded budget.

Trustee Marilan Moir expressed concern at both meetings about the council’s ability to pay for the proposed supplemental pensions, especially given MTFR’s stated need to purchase a new fire engine in the coming years. Trustee Chris Mucher responded to the proposed resolution on April 1 by stating that he has “always prioritized staff over shiny equipment, and this is no exception.” Trustee Chairman Don Hollister suggested April 15 that the council wait to make a decision until the results of an organizational review of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association are known in March 2023. Chief Powell noted on April 15 that other fire and rescue agencies in the region are “actively hiring full-time, retired” personnel, adding that current firefighters/EMTs employed by MTFR are considering leaving the local agency if there no more retired positions become available.

The proposed decision was brought up again at the trustees’ most recent regular meeting on Monday, May 6. Several firefighters were present at the meeting.

Near the end of the meeting, Trustee Chris Mucher suggested that the trustees go to a board meeting to further deliberate on the proposed resolution. That executive session ended with only Moir and Hollister returning to the public session.

“We aim to make a decision within two weeks,” Hollister said at the time, referring to the trustees’ upcoming regular meeting on May 20.

In the meantime, however, the trustees held a special meeting on Friday, May 10, this time with former Mifflin Township Fire Chief Fred Kauser in attendance.

Kauser, a 40-year-old firefighter, is also a fire instructor, lecturer, trainer and consultant, as well as a professor and researcher with a master’s degree in labor and human resources management and a Ph.D. in the field of workforce development and education.

Moir said she reached out to Kauser for help and advice on how the council could move forward with a decision on the resolution; The purpose of the special meeting was to discuss and vote on hiring Kauser as an independent consultant on the matter.

“We are at an impasse over how to retain and compensate firefighters,” Moir said during the special meeting. “My concern was that we weren’t doing due diligence, so I called and asked for advice.”

“What could you do to help us?” Hollister asked Kauser.

Kauser said his impression of the trustees’ situation is that the board is “favorable and supportive” of Chief Powell’s recommendation, but they need “clarity and due diligence” before putting the matter to a vote.

“I’ve helped dozens and dozens of organizations navigate this path,” Kauser said. “For your next meeting, I can safely say that you have enough information to make a decision.” …On the matter at hand, I need not express an opinion. The work that I provide, that documentation… should be enough for you to make the decision because you will have enough information to see what the actual impact is.”

Kauser further said that in addition to providing data for the trustees to consider regarding making a decision on the proposed supplemental pensions, he will work with the council for 30 days to make procedural recommendations on the overall processes and systems of MTFR.

“Actually, I’ll probably end up writing some of those processes,” he said.

Kauser also noted that his role is not only to work in the best interests of the trustees and the general public, but also as an advocate for the firefighters. He suggested that the trustees keep in mind that firefighters are very much influenced by “environmental factors” such as funding, public support and support from administrators and elected officials.

“These firefighters are hypersensitive to these conditions, and it has a profound impact on culture, morale and retention,” Kauser said. “Today, the (state and national) data shows that finance and compensation are still not the leading factors driving people into or out of organizations – it is culture, leadership, management, consistency and responsiveness.”

For that reason, Kauser said, it would be his intention, if hired by the council, to provide an analysis of Chief Powell’s proposal in time for the May 20 meeting so that it can be “finally, quickly and without can be decided by consultation”. I am afraid that there will be criticism or that this will derail the fire brigade.”

“That’s why I said we’ll have this done in a week — I think we have to,” Kauser said.

The trustees, Powell and Kauser, held a board session for the purpose of discussing a potential independent consultant agreement with Kauser and deliberated for approximately 40 minutes. Back in open session, the trustees unanimously approved Kauser’s hiring.

After another brief board session for the purpose of discussing “legal matters,” Mucher decided to take another board vote on the long-awaited OFCA review.

“As a result of the board meeting, I would like to make a motion that the review we entered into with the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association in March (2023) and which was promised would be delivered within 90 to 120 days has not yet been completed . be delivered, and if it is not here by 5 o’clock in a week, we will consider (the contract for the evaluation) null and void,” Mucher said.

The trustees unanimously approved the proposal.

The next regular meeting of the Miami Township Trustees will be held on Monday, May 20, beginning at 5:00 PM in the MTFR community meeting room.