A determination on the process for hiring a new fire chief will have to wait until next month.
The Brainerd City Council Monday directed staffers to work with the Police and Fire Civil Service Commission to look at other budgetary options than hiring a search firm to find candidates for the fire chief position, vacated in May by Kevin Mahle.
Council member Anne Nelson Fisher said council members shouldn't be surprised, however, if the search doesn't cost under $1,000, as council member Bob Olson suggested in the Brainerd Personnel and Finance Committee.
"I think in order to find an excellent fire chief, we have to make sure it's done professionally and people are adequately compensated," said Fisher.
Olson suggested Brainerd area firefighting personnel and other local residents could form the committee.
"I think the best thing we can do is see if staff and the civil service commission can give us an approximate cost to go with a local search team," Olson said. The motion, however, didn't specify the commission only look at local search firms. The motion, said Bevans, only would be concerned with the cost of a search firm.
The commission previously had selected Labor Relations Associates at a cost of $17,522, but at its June 6 meeting the council decided to delay authorizing the funds to hire the search firm and directed staffers to look into the possibility of having a local search team look for candidates.
In a memo to the council and the civil service commission, City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick cleared up questions of which public body has the authority in hiring a search firm and selecting candidates. Fitzpatrick wrote it is the commission's responsibility to advertise for all examinations, administer examinations, rank candidates and certify the top three names to the city council. The council's role is to make a selection from the three candidates.
As he has at past civil service commission and personnel and finance committee meetings, former firefighter and ambulance service owner Terry Moberg voiced his opposition to hiring an outside search firm. Moberg, during the public forum portion of the council meeting, said he would like to see the fire chief's from Pillager and Pine River, former and current Brainerd firefighters on the search committee, among others.
"I have visited with many of the local fire service personnel. They don't want another Twin Cities chief, they want a chief who will be in the fire house, available to them when they have problems or suggestions," Moberg said. He also proposed increasing the amount of preference points given to current firefighters who apply for the position, from three to 10.
After Mahle announced his resignation May 3, Underhill was one of five candidates who applied for the interim fire chief position. Other longtime fire department members who applied for the position included Kevin Stunek, a battalion chief; Wayne Durant, fire engineer; Charles Dunemann, a lieutenant and fire engineer; and Keith Bachman, fire engineer.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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