Last night, City Council met in a Strategic Planning Committee meeting (full Council) to review the Fire Audit and allow comment from the EFD and the public. The meeting was very productive. There are lots of areas of agreement within the Audit. The EFD takes issue with some of the information presented and the underlying data, but these areas were narrow and focused (although they do go to the heart of EFD's contention that its contract is not "overly lucrative" with room for cuts).
The administration stated that it has no areas of contention with the information presented by the Audit and that it will rely on the expertise of the Audit's preparers.
Chief Benton identified several items that are already being implemented by EFD, showing positive progress towards improvements and indicating his ability and leadership in his role as Fire Chief, in which capacity he has served for six months.
The next step will be for the administration and the EFD to develop an action plan of items that can be accomplished and should be accomplished. The plan should include costs associated with items, no-cost items and cost-neutral items. Council should provide a timeline for the development of such a plan and for its implementation, once approved. Although this was discussed and seemed to have consensus support, initial timelines have not yet been established. There was additional discussion at forming a subcommittee of Council to help facilitate this process.
EFD is currently in contract negotiations with the administration, which means that everything is open for discussion at this time.
I see this as a positive step in moving the City forward to help resolve the longstanding dispute between the administration and the EFD and to rebuild that department to make it more effective and, ultimately, to improve the safety of our residents.