PTC Fire Dept. study: Cut officers, hire EMTs

Fire Department joins cops in computer shortcomings; IT contractor ‘unreliable’

If Peachtree City follows a recommendation from a study of the Fire Department, it will flatten some of the command structure of the department and put more paramedics on active duty.

In addition, interviews and surveys of Peachtree City Fire and Rescue Department employees indicate “that the recent behavioral problems in the fire department were contained to isolated incidents,” according to a comprehensive report compiled by a consultant for the city.

The report from Matrix Consulting Group also identified a number of Information Technology problems with the department, noting that the city’s IT contractor “is unreliable” and the outsourcing “is not meeting the needs of the agency.”

The Matrix report was ordered in large part to respond to problems that came to light last year when a female firefighter complained that then-fire chief Ed Eiswerth had attempted to coax her into having sex with him on multiple occasions, and also that he forced his way into her hotel room at a conference in Florida during one such overture.

Eiswerth ultimately resigned from office and was replaced on an interim basis by assistant fire chief Joe O’Conor, who several weeks ago was promoted to the chief’s position full-time.

Because of the Eiswerth trouble, and also in a nod to claims of sexual harassment filed against former assistant fire chief Peki Prince, Matrix Consulting recommends that the new fire department leadership implement a constant communication of the department’s values, which will be used to “monitor behavior as the PCFD moves forward.”

Like in the police report, Matrix has identified information technology as being a major weakness in the fire department, and thus the company has recommended that the city hire a separate IT staffer to help both the fire and police department.

Among the IT troubles are connectivity issues with mobile data computers, equipment failures being frequent and slow to be resolved and also confusion about when the city’s IT contractor should handle issues instead of the city’s in-house IT staff.

The recommendation is one of several that will be considered when a Matrix representative presents the report, along with a similar review of the police department, to the city council Thursday night at its regular 7 p.m. meeting.

In the personnel column, Matrix is recommending the department eliminate its existing lieutenant positions and use the savings to hire three additional firefighter paramedics instead.

If implemented, the fire department will imitate the city’s Police Department action last year when it eliminated all its captains’ slots, putting several veteran cops out of jobs. One has since run for and been elected to the city council.

One of the Matrix recommendations on the fire department report is an evaluation of attrition rates in an effort to get them below 5 percent for full-time staff. Over the past four years the department has averaged 8.2 percent.

The Matrix report also reviewed a wealth of fire department data and determined there is no need for any new units as none of them reached the industry benchmark of 3,500 calls a year.

Matrix is recommending that the department adopt the National Fire Protection Association’s guidelines for conducting more frequent inspections of buildings considered moderate and high-risk occupancies, the latter of which include “nursing homes, large users of flammable liquids or hazardous materials ... and facilities classified to handle ‘extremely hazardous substances.’”

The employee survey revealed that in terms of workplace satisfaction, employees believe they are listened to and treated fairly by their peers and supervisors, and they also have excellent working conditions between the equipment and fire stations. However, the report noted that the many respondents “commented negatively on current pay scales and lack of raises.”

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