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Busy year ahead for fire department in Hobart

Updated: January 9, 2014 10:03AM

HOBART — The Hobart Fire Department will be getting a lot of attention from the City Council after the first of the year, City Attorney Anthony DeBonis said, with the selection of a new chief, possible new hires, external report on the department itself and a new ordinance all in the works.

Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, asked Mayor Brian Snedecor if some of the money the city should be receiving as a result of the E-911 consolidation could be used for hiring additional firefighters.

“Can we get it to 50 next year?” Mendez asked of the number of firefighters.

Snedecor said the department now has 48 firefighters.

Snedecor said he wants to use the E-911 money for equipment, not salaries, but added he is trying to add one more firefighter per shift.

“We’re paying a considerable amount for overtime,” Snedecor said.

He said the council budgeted for 51 firefighters for this year, but the number was pared down to 47 to 48 after the council had to cut $250,000 from the budget.

Applications were closed in late November for in-house firefighters seeking the job of fire chief. Six resumes were submitted. Snedecor said he hoped to hire from within, but didn’t rule out the possibility that he could still choose someone from outside the department.

He said he hoped to hire someone by January.

Currently, the council has to hire a new chief from among the ranking firefighters, but that could change. The council looked at approving a new ordinance that would lift that restriction, but decided to hold off on any action in good faith with the firefighters union.

The issue could resurface in 2014.

Snedecor said an independent report on the fire department itself should be coming soon and might be placed on a City Council agenda in January.

He said Tom Dabertin of Shared Resource Solutions in Hammond was able to receive a key piece of information he needs to conclude his report — the Geographic Information Study — through the Lake County Surveyor’s Office.

Dabertin said this is a comprehensive study prepared by the International Association of Firefighters, to which Hobart Professional Firefighters Local 1641 belongs.

Dabertin previously said the study shows response times, risk assessment and other important data. He said those results will either support or dismiss his conclusions.

Results of the study could spur some changes in the way the department operates.

DeBonis said he is also working on one ordinance that will include both collecting money owed for fire department inspections and the department’s communications system.

A fire department spokesman told the council previously the department has difficulty collecting the inspection fees. DeBonis said the department’s communications system can’t penetrate some buildings.

“This can create a dangerous situation,” DeBonis said.

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