By Elizabeth F. McNamara
When the East Greenwich Town Council approved a motion last month to use the hiring list from Central Coventry Fire District, it was with the understanding that CCFD would need to agree as well. Town Manager Gayle Corrigan – who is also the administrative manager for CCFD – had suggested the move.
The issue, however, has not gone before the CCFD board of commissioners and CCFD Fire Chief Frank Brown said he is not in favor of the plan, which he learned of after the East Greenwich Town Council vote.
The EG Town Council had voted 4-1 to use the CCFD list, with Mark Schwager voting no. While Councilman Sean Todd said he thought the plan to use the CCFD list was innovative, Schwager said he was uncomfortable voting before the CCFD board had discussed the issue.
Chief Brown said it came down to hiring the best candidates available. With a hiring list, there is a ranking, with those candidates with the highest score in the top spots.
“We want to have the highest scoring person be hired by our department when an opening comes up,” Brown explained. “If we hire 1 and 2, and somebody else [such as East Greenwich Fire Department] hires 3 and 4, and something comes up so we need another person, then we have to hire number 5” instead of 3 or 4.
“That’s why I say the list should stay here,” he said.
He is not the only chief in the state who shares that opinion – hiring lists in Rhode Island are not shared. If CCFD had agreed, it would have been a first for the state.
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Fire and police departments use hiring lists to jumpstart their hiring process – people on a fire hiring list have already shown, for instance, that they have a valid driver’s license and have passed written, physical and swim tests.
However, the East Greenwich Fire Department has not had a hiring list for more than two years, Instead, the last six firefighters hired in late 2016 and early 2017 were from other departments (so-called “lateral transfers”). According to firefighter union president Bill Perry, former Chief Russ McGillivray was planning to open a new list in 2017; McGillivray was dismissed in November before a list was opened.
Acting Chief Kevin Robinson told councilors in July that using the CCFD list would enable the department to hire someone quickly. At the time, the department had one vacancy. With the firing of Lt. Rob Warner last week, the department now has two vacancies. That will increase the cost of overtime but the department won’t be paying salaries and health insurance for those two positions until they are filled.
Perry said he thought the department could assemble a hiring list within a couple of months. Once someone is hired, they spend 12 weeks in training before they are allowed to work as a regular firefighter.
Chief Robinson and Town Manager Gayle Corrigan had not responded to questions about the hiring list at press time.