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PSAC to choose Willow fire chief

The first project for the newly established Public Safety Advisory Committee is to conduct a search and recommend a candidate for Fire Chief of Willow Springs Fire Department. In their very first meeting Monday, Nov. 20, five of the seven members of the new committee discussed introductory topics and cast lots for term lengths before jumping into the deep end with a closed session. 
After approximately forty-five minutes, the committee reopened the public session. They had voted to make two recommendations to the Board of Aldermen when that body meets on Dec. 18: (1) Accept the resignation from sitting Fire Chief Vance Farmer and (2) recommend Assistant Police Chief Alan Lewis to serve as Interim Fire Chief pending the search and hire of a permanent fire chief. 
Chief Farmer submitted a resignation effective Dec. 31. City ordinances establish qualifications and certifications for the position of fire chief but allow one year for the individual holding the position to obtain them. A minimum of five years’ firefighting experience is required. There was no discussion of Asst. Chief Lewis’ qualifications in open session.
There were five PSAC members present Monday night – Robert Hollis, who will serve as committee chair, Erik Montgomery, who will serve as secretary, Jeff Lovan, vice chair, Scott Williamson, and Susan Rackley. Alderwoman Kim Rich was present on behalf of the board of aldermen.
City administrator Beverly Hicks was there, as were Chief Wes Ellison and Asst. Chief Alan Lewis. Absent committee members are Nathan Wake and Rebecca Klapmeyer. 
The committee reviewed budgets for the fire and police departments and heard about the upcoming fiscal year’s budget adjustments and unmet needs for these departments. Committee members had been provided with a copy of the draft city budget expected to be passed in December. This budget earmarks approximately $861,000 for the police department, $67,000 for animal control, and $94,000 for the fire department. The committee will receive and review monthly reports on public safety department spending.
There was some discussion and initial confusion about the purpose of the committee. 
“What exactly are you expecting from us?” Rackley asked. 
The ordinance passed by the City of Willow Springs establishes that the first duty of the PSAC is to “advise [the city government] on methods and procedures to improve public relations and public image.”
The ordinance goes on to list additional duties of planning efforts for the financial wellbeing and budget requests of public safety departments, hiring committees, making recommendations for improvements, and weighing in on changes to the city parking and traffic activities. 
In last Monday night’s meeting, discussion centered on getting a greater number of people involved in decision making – a group who can “dig in” to public safety issues. 
“One thing that I would like to see this board address is the recruiting and retention of firefighters,” offered Alderwoman Rich. “I would like to see the fire department get to a good place with staffing.”
City Hall will prepare and set the committee’s agendas, with input from committee members and public safety department heads. 
The committee voted to meet on the first Monday of every month. Their next meeting will be Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.
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