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Council tables appointments for fire department leadership positions
Aug. 26, 2013
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By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

DELANO, MN – A number of members of the Delano Fire Department with concern over the restructuring of five leadership positions within the department were at Tuesday night’s regular Delano City Council meeting.

An interview panel, consisting of Mayor Dale Graunke, Council Member/Fire Department Liaison Jack Russek, Fire Department Relief Association Liaison Brian Bloch, and City Administrator Phil Kern made three recommendations to the city council at Tuesday’s meeting.

The recommendations were to restructure the assistant fire chief/training officer and captain/medical/public education to swap specialities. This would create an assistant fire chief/medical/public education position and a captain/training officer position, according to a request for action prepared by Kern.

Initially, the assistant fire chief position was to include the duties of training officer, while the captain positions each have a speciality toward equipment, apparatus, safety, and medical/public education.

The fire department opened internal postings for these five positions. Three current firefighters applied for the assistant fire chief position – Travis Esler, Matt Van Lith, and Willie Staunton.

Because Van Lith is Fire Chief Bob Van Lith’s son, Bob Van Lith excused himself from the appointment process.

The interview panel recommended appointing Travis Esler to the assistant fire chief position with a six-month probationary review, and also appoint Matt Van Lith to the captain/training officer position with a six-month probationary review.

It was noted firefighters no longer vote for leadership positions within the department, but rather they are recommended by the chief, or in this case, an interview panel. The city council then makes the final appointments.

Council Member Dan Vick said he would like to have input from firefighters on the positions and the process.

Council Member Derek Schansberg said he had an issue with restructuring the positions midway through the hiring process.

Troy Meyer, who has been a Delano firefighter for 15 years, spoke before the council and said it only makes sense that at least a representative of the department be part of the selection process.

He said there wasn’t one member of the department who interviewed the candidates for the positions. While he said he didn’t represent all 22 members of the department, he did obtain input from a lot of the department’s members.

“To have someone else come in and tell us this person is better than that person is kind of tough to swallow,” Meyer said.

The council asked Meyer to come back with a proposal on how the members of the fire department could have more input into the appointment process. Meyer said almost everything the fire department does is by committee, and said a hiring/appointment committee may be the way to go.

“We do committees with everything we do,” he said.

The council also discussed the length of the appointment for respective positions, in which there was some uncertainty.

The council tabled the issue and did not confirm any appointments for the fire department. The issue will be revisited in an upcoming work session, and the department was asked to bring ideas on improving the appointment process back to the city council.

Odds and ends
In other business, the council:

• approved a request from the Bohemian Wine Bar and Pub for an outdoor music/dance event Saturday, Oct. 5 for an Oktober Fest celebration. Owners Ken and Sara Beamish plan to have music including an old-tyme polka band and a rock band.

• removed an item regarding the cement project at Central Park from the city claims at the request of Vick for further review.

Vick said it appeared to have come in about $25,000 more than what was expected and wished to discuss the item at the council’s next work session.

• adopted a resolution approving the preliminary and final plat for the Delano Northwest Business Park, along with an ordinance amending the city’s zoning map.

• approved site and building plans for Verizon Wireless to construct a 4,216-square-foot retail building on a 24,410-square-foot site located north of Highway 12 and west of 13th Street, adjacent to the True Value Hardware building.

• adopted a resolution approving a conditional use permit for the phased development of a second ice arena facility adjacent to the existing indoor ice arena and outdoor rink on the school district campus.

The first phase will include installing an outdoor ice sheet with an adjacent building. A second phase would construct a building over the ice sheet and be of comparable design and construction with the existing arena.

It was noted this approval was contingent upon approval of the plans from the Delano School Board.

• adopted ordinances amending city code regarding brewpubs and the licensing and regulations regarding brewpubs.

• discussed the preliminary concept for construction of a garage at Gino and Amy Johnson’s Railroad Avenue residence. The council directed city staff to work with the Johnsons on the concept.

• discussed an economic development program that would potentially assist businesses interested in investing in Delano. Watch for more in a future edition.

• granted an extension, pending owner agreement, for the repair or removal of “hazardous conditions” located at the garages behind McDonald’s Photography Studio, facing the public parking lot.

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