The Norwich Township Fire Department promoted three firefighters to lieutenant last week, but a former firefighter spoke up to criticize the move.
Brian Davis, Lamar Sweigart and Rick Warren were promoted during a badge-pinning ceremony at the start of the trustees meeting Jan. 21.
Fred Still, a retired Norwich Township firefighter and former union representative to the International Association of Firefighters, questioned the need for additional supervisors.
Fire Chief Bob Kaufman and Assistant Chief Jeff Warren said the move would make the department more efficient and provide residents with improved emergency services and community outreach.
Trustee Larry Earman said the increase in personnel costs, estimated at about 14 percent, would be well worth the additional duties for which the three new lieutenants are to be tasked.
But Still criticized the trustees for promoting last year's 4.12-mill fire levy by stressing it was needed to maintain the current level of services.
"How can you justify the added management?" Still asked.
Kaufman said the three new lieutenants, who were at the top of the promotion list, already were serving in the capacity of lieutenants for a majority of their on-duty time.
Prior to the promotions, the department had 12 lieutenants, and a lieutenant is required to be on duty on each shift at all three of the department's stations.
About 86 percent of the time, at least one of the three promoted firefighters filled in for lieutenants on sick or personal leave as an "out-of-class" firefighter and received lieutenant's pay, Kaufman said.
The three new lieutenants are expected to reduce the need to back fill and use firefighters "out of class," eliminating the inconsistency created by an individual switching between the role of firefighter and lieutenant, sometimes from shift to shift, Kaufman said.
The three new lieutenants will be tasked with leading the department's 55-and-over program, a community outreach for seniors, as well as special events, a policy committee, community relations and a soon-to-be launched bike patrol, Jeff Warren said.
The new three new lieutenants also will be stationed as a rover at each station, Jeff Warren said.
Still also said he was concerned because the job descriptions for the new lieutenants were not outlined in writing.
Jeff Warren responded that the department will create a formal job description for each of the new positions.
Still further prodded trustees about a pending settlement between the township and a prospective employee, inquiring how much the township had to pay to settle a complaint.
Earman said the terms could not yet be divulged publicly.
The tentative settlement was pending and had originally been the subject of an executive session with the township's legal counsel, trustees said.
Trustee Chairman Tim Roberts later confirmed a verbal agreement had been reached with the complainant and the township's insurance carrier, but it had not been signed.
He said the complaint had not been taken to court.
In other township business Jan. 21:
* Two other firefighters were recognized.
Rob Spann, who became a full-time Norwich Township firefighter in 1995, was recognized for 31 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve. He retired as a first sergeant earlier this month.
The department also recognized Jeff Morales, who was named the Ohio Veterans of Foreign Wars Firefighter of the Year for 2013-14.
The Ohio VFW provided $300 for Morales to give to a charity of his choosing.
Morales, a full-time firefighter since 1990 and a member of the Ohio Task Force, a group of Ohio first responders who volunteer to provide assistance at disaster areas throughout the United States, said he would donate the money to the Hilliard Community Assistance Council food pantry.
* The trustees voted 3-0 to fund half the cost -- $903,432 -- of Hilliard's new digital communications tower for police, fire and EMS dispatching.
The $1.8 million tower will be built at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park and is expected to be operational by year's end.
Hilliard will build the tower as a requirement for joining the Central Ohio Interoperability Radio System.