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Decorah Fire Department engineers will be supervised by the City Manager

Posted: Fri, Jun 2, 2017 11:31 AM

The Decorah City Council Monday night voted 5-1 in favor of a motion to hire a third full-time fire engineer and to have all three full-time fire engineers report to City Manager Chad Bird.

The vote marked a decision on an issue which has divided city council members since the beginning of the year, after fire engineer Phil Hardy announced his plans to retire as of July.  Several motions made previously by the city council failed to get enough votes to pass.

Members of the Decorah Firefighters Association proposed naming one of the three fire engineers as a department head and having such issues jointly handled by that person and the City Manager. 

City Council member Randy Schissel--who had previously voted against the proposal to have fire engineers report to the City Manager--on Monday night made a motion to reconsider the issue.  Only city council member Chuck Lore opposed the motion, with city council member Gary Rustad absent.

Before voting, city council members heard from Fire Chief Mike Ashbacher, who asked for clarification of the responsibilities of the chief position.  Ashbacher said, "I'm not a city employee, nor a city department head."  He also stated he had not received human resources training, as other city department heads have.  Bird said his new duties would involve supervising paid employees, but not running the Fire Department--that would remain Ashbacher's responsibility.

Bird said he wanted to update the fire engineers' job descriptions and make changes in city ordinances to reflect the new system.  Mayor Don Arendt said, "Hopefully, there will be a little more clarification."