City manager, Johnson City firefighters to meet over report

Becky Campbell • Mar 9, 2017 at 11:26 PM

Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson has promised to meet with a task force of firefighters about a report they and the Municipal Technical Advisory Service wrote concerning personnel issues within the fire department, particularly the firefighters’ desire for a new chief.

“I first and foremost appreciate the time and deliberation that our task force of firefighters put into creating the report, as well as the efforts of MTAS consultant Pat Hardy in facilitating the discussions that led to this report,” Peterson said in an emailed statement Thursday. “The task force came up with 17 considerations, with one of those being that I go over the report with them. Because of the nature of their shifts, I will do that in three separate meetings starting this week.”

Three groups of firefighters — a total of 18 — met with an MTAS representative in February to develop recommendations in response to a 2016 fire department employee survey. That survey, which revealed firefighters have little confidence in Chief Mark Scott’s leadership, came after an internal investigation found the chief had not violated workplace harassment laws.

“From my initial view of the report, many of the items listed are simply good operational practices that should be applied in all aspects of our organization. Others are very specific to the fire department and its operations. I look forward to hearing more from the firefighters about each of these and how they suggest we could best implement them within their department,” Peterson said in his statement.

“What’s important moving forward is that this process continues. We must keep open lines of communication with our employees and listen to those in the trenches about how we can operate most effectively and efficiently. I don’t see this as a committee that was created to develop a report — I see this as a partnership that we are forging to ensure the best possible fire department for years to come.”

The recommendations from the report from firefighters and MTAS were:

• recruit a new and qualified chief; 

• hold all employees accountable for their behavior;

• fill vacancies in a timely manner;

• implement an employee recognition program;

• develop and communicate a long-range plan;

• delegate duties to officers;

• rebuild and emphasize the training department;

• re-examine the command structure;

• develop and implant a quality career ladder/succession plan that fills key positions;

• fix the promotion process;

• communicate departmental goals and happenings;

• have an officer on every apparatus;

• re-examine all policies and procedures;

• revitalize the committee system;

• examine support staff capacity;

• work toward a minimum staffing level of three-persons per apparatus; and

• meet with the city manager to go over the report.

Those meetings between Peterson and firefighters will take place before next week.

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