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Recommended rule changes would affect selection of fire dept. officers

WILLMAR -- Changes to rules governing selection of fire department officers received the recommendation of the Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee Wednesday evening. The recommendations will be considered by the full council at the n...

WILLMAR -- Changes to rules governing selection of fire department officers received the recommendation of the Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee Wednesday evening. The recommendations will be considered by the full council at the next regular meeting.

The changes were proposed by Fire Chief Marv Calvin and were modeled after changes recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities. Under the new rules, officers would be selected by a committee rather than be elected by fire department members.

Captains, lieutenants and secretary are now elected for one-year terms. Under the new rules, captains and lieutenants would be selected for three-year terms and the secretary would be selected for one-year terms. The selection committee will be composed of assistant chiefs, the deputy chiefs and two line firefighters "to make sure all the people are qualified,'' said Calvin.

"This is coming at the recommendation of the League of Minnesota Cities because the people that are running the fire department are in the leadership positions and those are positions that should be selected, and be appointed by the fire chief and city administrator,'' he said.

Calvin said the firefighters favored three-year terms. Under the one-year term, an officer is just starting to learn system but would be rotated out if not re-elected, said Calvin. Calvin said the changes are supported by the firefighters.

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In related business, the Labor Committee recommended revisions establishing the positions of assistant chief, deputy chief of operations and deputy chief of training. The classifications would replace the present hierarchy of first-, second- and third-assistant chiefs, Calvin explained.

In the absence of the chief, any of those positions could assume a command function, said Calvin.

In other business, the committee received information on a health care savings plan proposed by the Willmar Municipal Utilities.

The plan would let retiring employees convert a portion of their retirement severance pay into a tax-free account to be used for eligible health care expenses, said Mike Nitchals, utilities general manager.

Once the account is in place, there will be no cost to the employer to administer, Nitchals said.

Also, the committee received information on revisions to the Willmar Municipal Utilities personnel and procedures manual. The manual was last revised in 1997.

The health care savings plan and the personnel manual were presented first to the committee before being presented to the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission. The commission's action on the plan and manual will be included in the commission's meeting minutes, which will be submitted later to the council for approval.

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