Oak Creek Acting from the direction of the Oak Creek Fire Protection District board, Steve Jones has contacted a consultant to assess the needs of the district to find out if a possible full-time fire chief is needed.
Jones was instructed by the board to do that in a Nov. 14 special fire board meeting. At that meeting, Oak Creek's volunteer fire chief, Chuck Wisecup, asked the board to pay him for all the work he is doing. He is paid 20 hours a month for the job, which Wisecup said he surpasses on a consistent basis. He proposed to work and be paid 20 hours a week.
Jones has contacted one person so far, Kevin Kline, from Denver, to do the consulting work. He said he hasn't heard back from him.
The consultant would help answer tough questions for the district such as if a paid chief is needed, how many hours the chief would work, what the exact responsibilities the position would have and what qualifications are needed for the job.
"We need to determine our need for a part-time or full-time chief," Jones said.
It is not customary to hire an outside consultant in south Routt County, but Jones said it is needed to have a clear idea of what the district has in front of it as far as emergency services.
Wisecup said he has "mixed feelings" about the decision.
On one hand, he said he wanted to be paid for the extra time that he works and have an opportunity to bring the district up to better standards by addressing the increasing needs in the area. The money spent for a consultant could be used to help in that effort, especially for equipment updating, Wisecup said.
Wisecup pointed out that the information the consultant must have to assess the needs of the district means more work for Wisecup.
Also, Wisecup offered to work as chief part time, splitting his duties as Oak Creek's public works director with his staff. After the Nov. 14 meeting, the board expressed interest to hire a full-time chief instead, which Wisecup doesn't know if he can do.
"I personally cannot see that a full-time position is justified," he said. "In three years, it might be, but not right now."
On the other hand, Wisecup said the bottom line for proposing the paid position was to improve the services in the district.
"I won half my battle. At least they are looking at it," he said.
Another issue that is impacted by the decision is the ambulance service, which falls under the jurisdiction of Wisecup.
Rich Coleman is the Emergency Medical Services division chief in Oak Creek. He was unable to speak on the issue at the meeting because of an ambulance call.
Coleman said even though the ambulance service falls under the responsibility of the fire chief, the EMS division chief oversees most of his own operations. The fire chief's main role with the EMS division comes during budget season, Coleman said.
"I do believe there will be a need for paid people," Coleman said. "And maybe the need is right now."
However, if the board is considering paying people, it needs to look at the EMS side closely, Coleman said.
The ambulance ran 30 more calls in 2000 than it did in 1999.
"And the year is not over with yet," Coleman said.
Plus, all the volunteers on the ambulance side need at least the first emergency medical technician basic qualification.
Except for general training, the fire department volunteers, including the chief, are not required to have any fire or EMS certification. No one on the fire department has certified qualifications, including the chief.
If a paid fire chief is needed, there is a possibility the qualifications of the job would include some emergency medical certification so the chief can help out on the ambulance division.