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New chief already restructuring Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department

Six positions are cut as part of plan to save $1 million

Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 8:35 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 10:22 AM
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Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained an inaccurate description of the departure of former Fire Chief Howard Willis.

Firefighter candidate Matthew Maddox descends after climbing a ladder three stories during basic fire training. The new chief's reorganization means fewer battalion chiefs supervising more people.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Firefighter candidate Matthew Maddox descends after climbing a ladder three stories during basic fire training. The new chief's reorganization means fewer battalion chiefs supervising more people.


New Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James has already begun implementing his regime.

After being sworn in Feb. 13, he dissolved six positions on Friday, including Assistant Fire Chief Jack Hanley’s. Hanley had been a firefighter since 1975 and was serving as the fire department’s assistant chief for support services. Hanley had been placed on leave for sending and receiving pornographic jokes and pictures last year.

 Because Hanley’s position was part of a reduction in force, he received two full months of pay and his full pension, employment manager Onajuanita Foster said.

Under city policy, Hanley can apply for any other city position he is qualified for and automatically be considered, Deputy City Administrator Bill Shanahan said.

James’ reorganization is aimed at saving the department $1 million. Along with Hanley’s job, James dissolved three battalion chief positions, and one deputy chief position and a maintenance technician position, he said. The battalion chief and deputy chief positions were vacant.

“We are trying to be efficient and effective,” James said. “We need to be mindful of the budget.”

This year, the department received $1.7 million less from insurance tax, James said, because of the 2010 census.

In that census, the total population of Georgia went up, but Richmond County’s stayed about the same. Because the money is based on population, the department received less than some other areas.

James reduced the number of battalions from four to three, meaning the supervisors have a larger area to cover and more stations to watch. But he said that will not affect the department’s quality of service.

“It will be fine,” he said. “The engine companies will stay the same, and citizens will not see a difference in service.”

James is making one of those battalion chiefs a shift commander, Shanahan said. That supervisor will not only oversee a geographic area, but will also handle personnel issues and other important decisions.

The deputy chief position was posted Jan. 13, and James said applications will be taken for 30 days. He said the department will look at internal and external candidates to fill that spot. Right now, it is being covered by Interim Deputy Chief Richard Burts.

Another effort to budget costs will be the reduction of overtime after the hiring of more than 30 new firefighters.

The new class started on the third week of January and will be in training for a total of 25 weeks.

“We had a lot of vacancies,” James said. “In order to reduce overtime, we need to fill all vacant positions as soon as possible.”

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InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 02/21/12 - 07:23 am
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Am I not understanding how

Am I not understanding how businesses work? James’ reorganization is aimed at saving the department $1 million so three battalion chief positions, one deputy chief position and a maintenance technician position are eliminated. The department received $1.7 million less from insurance tax so the budget it tight. Another effort to budget costs will be the reduction of overtime after the hiring of more than 30 new firefighters. I'm glad the department is hiring more firefighters (wish the law enforcement agency could) but how is this reducing the budget. Hiring new employees I'm assuming would included benefits which are not paid out when someone works overtime. Are they balancing out the budget for the 30 new men by taking the salary paid to the three battalion chief, the deputy chief position and the maintenance tech? I may be reading it wrong but it appears Chief James is getting rid of some chiefs and hiring him some indians.

seenitB4
86957
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seenitB4 02/21/12 - 08:05 am
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Well he had to make his

Well he had to make his moves.....better now than later.
Good luck to him.

proud2bamerican
441
Points
proud2bamerican 02/21/12 - 08:55 am
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The high level positions that

The high level positions that he cut outweigh the expense of the new hires. Not to mention the manpower added in place of a few higher level positions which were not even needed; the article stated that at least two of the positions eliminated were vacant. How can we criticize 'new blood' coming in and making efforts to cut out unnecessary high ranking positions and loading up on less expensive manpower where it is needed? Clearly two of the upper level people had far too much time on their hands, passing around pornography and building a personal business with the use of his position! I say keep up the good work and stay focused!!

InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 02/21/12 - 09:44 am
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proud2bamerican, I hope that

proud2bamerican, I hope that my comment wasn't viewed as being critical. If two positions were vacant I fail to see how you can count those salaries as savings. I was attempting to understand how these changes (although they may be needed) would reach the goal of saving money. I agree the new hires are a great and needed addition but if you eliminate 5 positions and hire 30, seems like it balances things out rather than save money, (unless these 5 positions were paid an extremely high salary and the new hires are making bottom of the barrell pay).

Not being critical, just trying to understand.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 02/21/12 - 10:03 am
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Here's what I mean. A new

Here's what I mean. A new hire making $8.00 an hour x 40 hours a week x 52 weeks is $16,640 a year x 30 new hires = $499,200. Take $499,200 divided by the 5 positions eliminated (where 2 were empty no no salary actually being paid) = $99,840 a year. So were all 5 positions being paid almost one hundred thousand a year? I just don't see where any cost savings could be realized.

Ok, letting it go....

GodisSoGood
892
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GodisSoGood 02/21/12 - 10:39 am
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Once again, the paper has

Once again, the paper has part of the story wrong. Poor Chief Willis has moved on, and the paper still slings mud...full of inaccurracies! "former Fire Chief Howard Willis stepped down during an investigation into Willis’ side business, 1-800-BoardUp. " Chief Howard Willis DID NOT have a side business! Please, AC, correct the story!

Riverman1
83725
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 10:42 am
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ICL, I think one factors in

ICL, I think one factors in the total costs of the employee. Medical care and retirement costs.

Riverman1
83725
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 10:44 am
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GodisGoGood....Good point.

GodisGoGood....Good point. That was not Chief Willis' business.

Sean Moores
364
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Sean Moores 02/21/12 - 11:17 am
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GodisSoGood, We will fix that

GodisSoGood, We will fix that shortly. I apologize.

MysteryWriter
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MysteryWriter 02/21/12 - 01:49 pm
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I disagree with overtime

I disagree with overtime being money well spent in the public sector, especially with fire fighters and police officers. I don't particularly want a fire fighter coming to my house after working 48 hours straight. Yes, many have 2nd jobs but few if any have a 2nd job that requires that much stress and the need to be ready to go in a moments notice during their downtime from the station. Overtime may work in the business world but when it comes to my safety and that of my family's I don't won't an overworked, overstressed public safety officer making a mistake.

InChristLove
22473
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InChristLove 02/21/12 - 03:10 pm
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I agree with you

I agree with you MysteryWriter about wanting fire fighters and police officers unstressed in our time of need but a second job can be just as stressful as overtime. Sadly, these aren't the only two professions that the public rely on either, take nurses and doctors for example. In today's society if you work, most times we are overworked, overstressed. Remember although logic would seem that if you are rested you won't make a mistake, but anyone at anytime can make a mistake. We are just humans.

GodisSoGood
892
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GodisSoGood 02/21/12 - 03:55 pm
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Thanks, Sean.

Thanks, Sean.

joe
0
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joe 02/21/12 - 05:03 pm
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Mr. Moores, I would hope that

Mr. Moores, I would hope that the Augusta Chronicle will print a retraction tomorrow on the front page (no less) to correct the inaccuracies that were on the front page of the print edition today. I understand that errors can be made, but at least someone should proof the front page.

Sean Moores
364
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Sean Moores 02/21/12 - 05:18 pm
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joe, we will have a

joe, we will have a correction on 2A tomorrow. All corrections go at the top left of 2A. If they are not in a consistent location, they are much more likely to be missed by our readers. The story was edited and proof read. There's no denying that this was a big mistake. The story subjects had the same last name, and it just got past us.

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