Cuyahoga Falls -- Fire Chief Paul Moledor said officials are hoping to have four new full-time firefighters hired by early January.

During the discussion of the 2013 budget at City Council's finance committee meeting Dec. 10, Moledor said some of the job candidates are in the first phase of the required psychological testing and some are going through the polygraph testing.

"We're just starting to get some of the polygraph results back into us," said Moledor at the meeting. "Once we get that, then we're going to send the candidates back to the rest of the [psychological] testing."

The firefighters are being hired with a $489,704 grant that the city is receiving from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency. The monies will allow the city to hire four firefighters for two years, according to Moledor.

Council's finance committee chairwoman Diana Colavecchio (D-5) noted McGrath Consulting Group Inc. is doing a study of the fire department. The firm was hired by the administration in the fall and is being paid $40,000 to evaluate all aspects of the fire department's operations. This includes manpower, equipment, training and the make-up of the department, said Falls Mayor Don Robart, who told the Falls News-Press the firm was hired in late October or early November after Council had rejected changes to the fire and police departments' staffing ordinances.

The city is planning to hire the four firefighters before the study is complete.

Robart said the study is being done because some members of Council said they would like to have a "third-party opinion" about the fire department's needs, and added the administration had also been thinking about having such an evaluation done.

McGrath is slated to issue its recommendations in March. If the firm recommends hiring more firefighters, and Council agrees, Colavecchio asked City Finance Director Joe Brodzinski how officials would handle that in terms of the 2013 budget.

"The report that will be issued will have numerous recommendations and they will try to put a cost to those recommendations," said Brodzinski. "Then we will sit down and have a discussion, determine what the cost is, and if it's Council's will [to hire more staff], then we could simply up the appropriation from the unencumbered fund balance."

Brodzinski confirmed the current proposed budget does not need to be amended to account for potential changes that could happen at a future date.

"If we're going to be talking about additional personnel, we would then also bring down and create a new staffing ordinance," he added.

The fire department currently has 49 firefighters, 16 lieutenants, three captains and two chief officers, said Moledor.

Council on Dec. 17 is slated to discuss a staffing ordinance for the fire department that would set the composition at 52 firefighters, 16 lieutenants, three captains and two chief officers.

International Association of Firefighters Local 494 President and Falls Fire Lt. David Witner told the Falls News-Press in July that it's the union's position the fire department is presently understaffed, and urged the city to get "the hiring done as soon as possible."


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