Board members of the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District approved thousands of dollars for technology upgrades at Tuesday’s meeting, and then all but two members balked at approving the hardware upgrades to effectively run the new equipment and software.
Branden Jackman, public information officer for the district and an IT specialist, two weeks ago presented requests to the board that included upgrading from laptops to durable iPads that can better handle the wear and tear of being used across three shifts on a daily basis, along with asking for software upgrades, and upgrading the district’s IT infrastructure.
While the board approved $9,400 for the iPad package, and another $4,385 for software specific to the needs of emergency services, only board members Ron Ward and Mark Clyburn voted in favor of spending another $6,260 to update the wireless hardware across the district, which Jackman called the “backbone of the internal network.”
Jackman said the equipment in use now is outdated and not made for the daily workload it is currently under, nor does it possess the needed security capabilities that the district needs.
“You guys just approved thousands of dollars’ worth of upgrades and then crippled it,” Jackman said after the failed measure.
Board member Travis Mootz said he understood Jackman’s frustration, but he was worried about increasing employee access, thereby decreasing productivity. Paint Creek already has guest access to their wireless network, but Jackman said that access could always be restricted and filtered however the board saw fit.
The board went into executive session shortly after 9 p.m. for the stated purpose of “personnel matters to consider the appointment/ employment/compensation of a public employee or official.”
Even though the IT issue was not part of the stated reason for the executive session, Jackman was called into the closed session for a few moments in regard to the denied request for IT infrastructure improvements, and said later that the board wanted to know specific parts needed for the upgrade so that a competitive bid could be obtained.
“They just want to do their due diligence,” Jackman said Wednesday. He said the board thanked him for his time and effort on putting together all the information for the district’s needed upgrades.
Also approved on Tuesday was a time clock system that would not only replace paper time sheets but track comp time, sick time, and certifications, among a myriad of other features. More than $30,000 was also approved for a heart monitor for one of the busiest squads in the district.
On Wednesday, Jon Salyer, human resources manager and public information officer for the district, said the amount on the heart monitor would be reduced by $7,000 as the company providing the equipment is willing to give that much for an older model heart monitor in the district.
Salyer said that during Tuesday’s executive session he presented board members with the candidates who had submitted resumes for the position of assistant chief. He said he received 14 resumes in all.
Following the executive session, a committee consisting of Mootz, Ward, and Dan Mathews was formed for the interviewing and hiring process.
Salyers said he will present the board with the four most qualified candidates at its next meeting to begin the process of hiring an assistant chief for the district. Former assistant chief Chad Hamilton left the district in December for a position on the Columbus area.
In other business, interim chief Bill Strain said he was contacted by BCI in regard to the investigation of suspended chief Bradley George.
George has been on suspension since early July, first due to a pending investigation, then as a punitive measure after it was determined in a hearing that charges of gross negligence, malfeasance, and failure to show good behavior were true, and then he was suspended again due to another pending investigation.
Salyer said he had previously been led to believe that the investigation was complete and the matter passed on to a special prosecutor with the state’s attorney general’s office for review. On Wednesday Strain said he was told that the investigation was still ongoing and had not been completed. BCI said the reason for the delay is that the assigned investigator has been off on medical leave, Strain said.
The interim chief said BCI provided no timeline and no further details.
On another matter, board members received a presentation from Paint Creek’s Michael Sowards on a cadet program in the district. Sowards distributed a set of by laws that have been constructed outlining the requirements for the teenagers involved. The 14-18 year olds would have to go through an application process, have background checks, and have to maintain their grades, among other things.
Strain said the program was not being brought to the board for approval just yet. He said those that have been working on creating the program wanted to let the board know what they were working on, and get input from the board.
He said “a more cohesive program” will be presented to the board at a later time.
Sowards, who began his career in a cadet program in Peebles, said district personnel have so far received the idea “very positively.” Board members also seemed receptive to the idea, though Ward voiced concerns about the added responsibility, extra duty, and the liability that would come with the program.
He said that while there were “a whole lot of reasons” not to do it, there were “good reasons” to move forward, too. The former sheriff recalled the success of the shadowing program at the sheriff’s office and the positive impact the program had on the children involved.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Ward said, while advising that the program start small.
The purchase of an infrared camera to replace an aged one in the district was approved, with the cost being offset by leftover grant money from a tanker truck being built for the district.
According to Strain, $3,188 remains from a FEMA grant that covered the bulk of a nearly $300,000 expense for a new tanker truck for the district. If a new infrared camera is specified to the truck, the grant money remaining can be put toward the cost of the needed camera, with the district paying the difference in cost of $1,800. The board approved the matter.
Strain said the infrared cameras are used at all structure fires, and in many other scenarios faced by district personnel.
The Paint Creek board holds its regular meetings every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Greenfield station on Washington Street. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.