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Easton moves forward in process to hire deputy fire chief

Easton recently added three new, entry-level firefighter positions to its department, but the appointment of a permanent deputy fire chief is still pending.The hiring to replace Kevin Arnold, who retired in February, had been delayed as city officials sought legal advice on testing requirements for the position, said Chief Mike Krill.Easton’s three-member civil service board recommended doing away with the written exam and instead rely solely on an oral interview. The recommendation was approved by City Council last week. Having a written test in addition to an oral exam “becomes an administrative burden,” Krill told council.Krill, who in February replaced Chief John Bast, said he’s been waiting to solidify his leadership team and having to develop and process a written test could further delay permanent appointments.Krill told council last week that it could delay an appointment by six more months because the test would have to be created, approved by the city, and meet state regulations that would allow candidates a certain amount of time to study for it.In addition, Krill said firefighters already take a written test to qualify for lower positions like captain and lieutenant. To qualify for deputy chief, they must have five years of experience with the department.Allentown also relies solely on an oral test for its deputy fire chief, Krill said.He believes an oral exam reveals more about a candidate’s qualifications than a multiple-choice written test.The deputy chief is responsible for the planning and administration of the fire department.“We are looking for someone who can go beyond just supervision. They should have a vision for the department and can work with the city administration in equipping and managing the fire department,” Krill said.Firefighter Henry Hennings has been serving as acting deputy chief. A member of the department for 15 years, Hennings said he hopes his position will be made permanent.Councilman Peter Melan said state law outlines the need for both written and oral tests and said doing away with the written portion might bring nepotism into question because an “extra layer” of protection would be eliminated in getting the best candidate. Easton attorney Joel Scheer said the law does not prohibit the city from doing away with the written portion of the test for deputy chief.There are four candidates in the fire department who are qualified for the job, Krill said.Three senior-level officers from other local career fire departments will administer an oral exam. Once the exam is complete, the Easton civil service board will recommend the top three candidates.Council will interview the candidates and vote, Krill said. He hopes a replacement will be appointed within a month.Council approved the appointment of three new firefighters at last week’s meeting, bringing the total number to 39, to prepare for upcoming retirements. There are 25 members eligible to retire next year.The entry-level firefighters are scheduled to start fire academy training on June 28. The starting salary is $33,026, said City Administrator Luis Campos.
Source: Morningcall

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