Published Date Written by Craig LyonsThe City Council will give members of the Portland Fire Department and other staff 90 days to collect feedback and develop a plan on how to implement any of the 169 recommendations that came out of an in-depth study of the department's operations and management.
Les Adams, president and CEO of Public Safety Solutions, Inc., met with the council Monday night to discuss the report put together by his firm and the recommendations laid out on how to improve operations and the Fire Department. The city received the more than 500-page report on last Wednesday.
Public Safety Solutions, Inc., of Maryland, was hired by City Manager Mark Rees to conduct the study of PFD. The city allocated $39,000 for the study. The consultants spent about three weeks in Portland visiting the various stations, conducting interviews and researching for the final report.
Adams said some of the major recommendations include revamping policies and procedures, reorganizing the management structure to allow for more focus on administrative tasks;
look at ways to improve the shift schedule for firefighter; ways to reduce the amount of overtime that's being accrued; and take Engine 6 out of service.
Fire Cheif Jerome LaMoria said the city and the Fire Department have an opportunity to take the information in the report and make bold choices moving forward. He said he'd like the city to take a three-month period to review all pieces of the report, collect feedback and develop a plan of how to implement the recommendations.
LaMoria said the report needs to be taken in its entirety and not in small pieces.
"I think we have an opportunity here and we want to do it right," said Councilor Nick Mavodones. Some of the recommendations might have budget implications, he said, and it's wise to take enough time to thoroughly read the report and think about what works for the city.
As the city weighs what pieces of the report should be implemented, Mavodones said it's critical that Portland residents can rely on a quick response from the fire and EMS departments.
"I think we need to be really sensitive to that," he said.
Adams said that before the council makes any decision on staffing levels, it's important that they first choose what level of service the city will provide its residents.
Councilor Cheryl Leeman said she'd like to see the staff separate the recommendations that can be implemented administratively and the ones that will require specific council actions.
"I think there needs to be a distinction made between the two," she said.
Councilor Ed Suslovic said he failed to see in the report where the consultants gave an appropriate level of staffing for the department.
For a city of roughly 66,000 people and 230 authorized personnel, there's 3.5 firefighters per thousand people, said Suslovic, and that's double the staffing at fire departments in similar sized cities. He said he failed to read in the report what made Portland so different to justify that staffing level.
Adams said the report didn't look at the comparables but focused on the operations like the fire boats, EMS, jetport and level of fire protection. He said it's difficult to look at comparable cities because the operations and levels of service.
"We saw no excesses," Adams said. "We saw efficiencies."
Measuring the number of firefighters against the population is not an good indicator, said Adams, but it works for police departments because they service people. He said EMS operations are the only piece that directly service people but most fire department operations service things, like fires in buildings and cars.
"It's kind of a red herring to talk about per capita firefighters," he said.