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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Public safety job description debated

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:34 PM

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County commissioners at a Tuesday workshop tossed around several suggestions for a job description of who could end up running a consolidated county fire district.

At least two thought the director of integrated fire rescue and public safety services should at least have a four-year college degree.

Others thought experience counts more than higher education experience.

The discussion also got around to whether to recruit inside, allowing local fire employees to apply.

Unable to reach a consensus, the board opted to allow County Administrator Len Sossamon to come up with a final description to be further discussed at the Dec. 11 business meeting.

Sossamon may also recommend the board continue the status quo and scrap plans to enhance the public safety position.

Commissioners also took off the table for now any discussion of whether the boundaries of the existing Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) should be expanded to include the geographical regions served by the Hernando Beach and High Point volunteer fire departments.

The board may revisit the issue when it discusses the 2012-13 budget later this year.

County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he is opposed to advertising outside for a new public safety director because the county is in the middle of consolidating Spring Hill and Hernando County fire departments and the current director, Mike Nickerson, is doing a fine job.

Adkins said he favors keeping Nickerson in that position and possibly having Spring Hill Fire Chief Mike Rampino act as assistant.

"There would be a learning curve and we are in stage three of consolidation," Adkins said. It's just so important to keep the ones in there that have the institutional knowledge to work together to make this happen."

County Commissioner Diane Rowden agreed that Nickerson and Rampino have decades of experience, have served this county well and advocated allowing them to continue their jobs.

Rowden also objected to county commissioners trying to tell the county administrator what should go in the job description for the new public safety position. That, she said, is Sossamon's job.

Commissioner Nick Nicholson said any candidate for the position should at least have a bachelor's degree.

"That is an absolute must," he said.

But County Commissioner Dave Russell reminded Sossamon and the board that the county's economic development manager, Mike McHugh, does not have a college degree, so there is precedence in hiring someone without that document.

However, McHugh is in the process of obtaining that degree and hopes to have it early in 2013.

Nickerson and Rampino both said they have an associate's degree in fire science and taken additional coursework.

Nickerson said he would like to continue in his present role and would welcome working with Rampino.

Rampino said he, too, would apply for the position if it becomes available and believes he could work well with Nickerson in some capacity.

Consolidation must be completed by Oct. 1, 2013.

Commissioners will also continue to discuss funding options for consolidating Spring Hill Fire Rescue with the county's emergency services.

With no way to fund itself, the fire district was abolished and its board members entered into an agreement with the county in August of last year to take over budgetary and managerial oversight.

Both agencies are funded differently – Spring Hill residents pay ad valorem property taxes at a rate of 2.5 mills.

County residents fund their department using a flat-rate, property-tax hybrid of $194.87 annually. (352) 544-5290

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