Fire Chief Tony Carli appeared before the Council Monday night to discuss the first month of the new program to cross-train new firefighters as EMTs – noting that all 18 had been hired and are now working with Cataldo Ambulance for training, though he did not that though they are City employees they are not specifically assigned to Everett.
The plan is a strategic plan that has been in the works for several years, and Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the chief put the plan into place on April 5 when they hired 18 new people to begin the road to a new in-house ambulance/fire service – since most of the Fire Department calls are medically related, Carli said.
He said five of the EMTs are already certified and riding with Cataldo in various locations for training on the ambulance, mostly doing transfers and acting as a back-up service. The other 13 are in classes with Cataldo training to become EMTs.
Likewise, he said, they all have dates in July, August and November for the Fire Academy.
“They all have Academy dates starting in July,” he said. “We have some going in July, some in August and the remaining dates are in November. As they get in and graduate, they’ll come back to us…They won’t be active firefighters though until after they complete the Academy. We were fortunate to have gotten them in early this April and get them the medical training with Cataldo before the Academy.”
He said they do pull the recruits in on Thursdays to get them used to the firehouses and procedures at the department. He also said they’d be pulled out of Cataldo 30 days before they start the Fire Academy for more intensive local training in preparation.
“I’m happy with the training they’ve received so far,” he said. “I think it’s been well-received by the members…They are City employees. We cover them and they have been on our payroll since April 5.”
“As the Mayor I’m continuously looking for ways to broaden our services. We’ve looked and watched our medical responses increase over the years, and this is way to better serve our city,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria.
Some councilors such as Fred Capone, Jimmy Tri Le and Stephanie Martins were concerned about the plan.
“I just want to make sure if there’s something we can utilize them for, that we’re doing that,” said Capone. “I just don’t want there to be a belief we’re supporting Cataldo’s workforce by having City employees ride with them. If there’s something we can do to bring them into the firehouse as soon as we can, I think that would be a good idea.”
Councilor Martins wondered if the new recruits were only serving Everett, since they are paid by the City. However, Carli said the training on the ambulance doesn’t permit that, as they serve within Cataldo’s wide network.
“They are in Everett on occasion, but they are not assigned to Everett,” said the chief. “What they do is a lot of transports between facilities because we want them to learn patient care…They’re assigned out of a base from Cataldo…but they are not assigned to the City of Everett.”
That said, the Chief also defended the program, and said Cataldo’s partnership with the City on transforming the Fire Service has been critical. While many in the Fire Union aren’t particularly sold on the change as it is taking place now – and collective bargaining still has to take place on the matter – the Chief said the plan has been no secret.
He said when they graduate the Academy, they will be firefighters even if they’re riding on an ambulance for a particular day.
“They will be in our count and are firefighters 100 percent of the time,” he said. “It doesn’t make a difference if they’re riding on an ambulance. They will be on firefighting duties if that duty calls…I’ve stuck to this plan and it’s been year’s in the making.”
•STILL LOOKING FOR KEY POSITIONS
While there has been some progress on the hiring front for the City, Mayoral Chief of Staff Erin Devaney reported on Monday to the Council that many key positions still remain vacant.
Recently, the City did hire a Human Resources director, and they have an offer extended to a candidate for assistant assessor, but many of the key jobs like Planning and Development Director, City Engineer, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Director and Elections Commissioner still remain vacant and are being recruited.
Other vacant positions include the Library Director and the Affordable Housing Coordinator.
Devaney said they are trying to be more creative in recruiting, and have started to use Indeed to get candidates. She said many of the candidates they have attracted have good professional experience, but none of them have any specific experience for these particular jobs.
Councilors Fred Capone and Rose DiFlorio have been particularly concerned about the vacancies since early this year, and have brought up the matter numerous times at the Council.
“Planning and Development, Engineering and Elections – these are all big,” said Capone. “It’s concerning to me we’re having this much difficulty getting applications. I don’t know what else we should be doing. It shouldn’t be this difficult to get applicants.”
DiFlorio said she believes the pay scale is too low, and with a big election for mayor coming up, few would want to gamble on getting shown the doors shortly after getting hired.
“I think we have two things against us,” she said. “One, the pay scale for department heads is from 1965 or something. Two, you have a big election coming up and I wouldn’t apply for a job in Everett not knowing if I had a job in January. I would not apply for a job in the City of Everett with this mayor’s race going on because you don’t know who your boss will be in November.”
Devaney said the positions aren’t contracted for a number of years, but she said they are appointed for a set time by the City Council – and she said they strive to hire people that everyone would be proud to have in any Administration.