With a potential need for new firefighter recruits looming, city staff has been directed to report to council the possibility of reestablishing a reserve list of qualified applicants that was eliminated by the previous fire chief.
Albert Horsman, CAO of the city, had already been in contact with acting fire chief Paul Milosevich about a need to hire firefighters in the near future to replace some of the recent retirees.
“It is accurate that we are going to have vacancies coming up,” said Horsman during tonight’s meeting of city council.
Previous fire chief Mike Figliola, who ceased working for the city as of last month, eliminated the hire list in summer 2015 — an early public blow in the ongoing dispute between himself and the local firefighter union.
The motion passed during tonight’s meeting asks city staff to report on the feasibility of reestablishing a list of qualified candidates to meet the needs of the fire services moving forward.
The firefighters on that previous hire list, which was created in 2011, will not be given favour on the new list said Milosevich.
At the time, retired fire chief Marcel Provenzano noted some prospective firefighters waiting to be hired by the city volunteer in the surrounding communities and many participate in charitable work through the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Fire Fighters Association.
Although the language does not appear in the motion he penned, Ward 1 councillor Paul Christian said he would like to see the city look after its youth with preference given to hiring local candidates.
“I did not agree with abolishing that list,” said Christian.
Horsman said candidates will need to complete accreditation at a training institute in southern Ontario to be considered for future employment.
“I wouldn’t say it (would be) a local list, but it will be a list that is set up to be fair, equitable, transparent and would give fair consideration to the qualifications for all of the potential candidates,” said Horsman.
Matthew Shoemaker, councillor for Ward 3, voted against the motion.
“My view is we should let the next chief decide whether he even wants to even look at the list, or whether he wants to go with another system,” said Shoemaker.
A decision by council to decide how the fire services handles new hires amounts to an administrative decision, argued Shoemaker, and he said it could potentially ‘handicap’ the next chief.
“I think it’s actually a bad move — it’s a bad move,” he repeated.
It was noted the motion asks staff only for a report back on the feasibility of returning to the list, not an implementation of the hiring practice at this time.
Christian noted the ongoing issues between management and the firefighter union in the department.
“I would argue the new fire chief will have bigger issues to deal with than a recruitment list,” said Christian.