By Connie O'Connor
WESTFIELD - The Westfield Fire Commissioners have hired a consultant to work with town and village officials as well as past and present firefighters to help solve morale and personnel problems in the department.
Consultant Linda Willing is a former firefighter and trainer whose firm, RealWorld Training & Consulting, operates out of Grand Lake, Colo. Willing has worked with fire departments nationwide, and has been well-recommended. She will meet with a 15-member committee to be comprised of current firefighters and chiefs, past firefighters, representatives of the village and town boards, the mayor, and four non-firefighters representing the community.
Chair Barrie Underwood felt that the department needs to do something "out of the box" to address the issues they have recently experienced. The motion to approve the consulting process and the formation of the committee was made by Debra Puckhaber and passed without objection. It is expected that the committee will be formed by the end of the month. Some fire department members present expressed concern about the process, stating that it was imposed on the department by the commission but will use a significant portion of the department's training funds to pay the consultant.
In other business, Chief Steve Pacanowski said that new assistant chiefs will be elected at Monday's meeting to replace the recent resignations.
Commissioners offered kudos to the department for their work at a recent fire on Bliss Street.
Lyle Holland discussed the work of the new Pride Committee - a group formed to clean, repair and organize the equipment and the station. So far they have cleaned and repaired the rescue boat and one of the trucks. Some of the commissioners asked to be invited to the next work session, saying they will get their hands dirty.
Some training and travel expenditures were approved. Marsha Holland was reimbursed for travel to a training session in Montour Falls, and Pacanowski was paid for expenses for travel to an Albany FASD conference in August. Chief's pay was approved for Pacanowski as was pro-rated pay for the recently resigned chiefs.
Funds raised from the summer convention have still not been fully calculated, as not all bills have been received. And the department is working on the turkey/gun giveaway fundraiser to be held later this month.