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Ceres City Council sets classifications for fire chief, recreation manager

Splitting the Ceres Department of Public Safety into separate traditional police and fire departments has prompted the Ceres City Council to create a new job description and salary schedule for the position of fire chief.

The council also acted to get the Police Department out of the role of overseeing the city's recreation program, something that occurred in the downsizing efforts back in 2009. Ceres Police Department Lt. Rick Collins has been overseeing the recreation division and the activities of recreation staff members Traci Farris, Cambria Pollinger and Cara Butler.

On Jan. 26 the council created the position of Recreation Manager.

The salary classification for fire chief was recommended at J88, or a range from $8,468 to $10,293 per month.

Councilmember Linda Ryno questioned why the salary of the police chief - which she called a high liability employee - is equal to that of a Human Resources director or Community Development Director.

"That's not to downplay what they do but I think a fire chief - their responsibility and the liability for them is much higher for those two other positions," said Ryno.

City Manager Toby Wells reminded Ryno that the new fire chief job duties are much different than the deputy fire chief role of today. The responsibility of fire marshal and code enforcement activities are not included in the new fire chief duties, he said.

Wells also said the "fire chief likely, in the scenario move forward, would not have a deputy chief in the structure in the near term, probably for a good period of time until we saw some significant growth in the department."

The fire department is pegged to have a chief, the three battalion chiefs that exist today and a fourth battalion chief that is currently frozen which would act as a fire marshal.

Wells said the salary was set comparing to what other comparable cities are paying and comparing to what the city is paying other department heads.

The other option - which Wells called "appropriate" - was to go with the J90, a difference of 5 percent more.

Another factor considered is that the police chief salary is generally 8 percent higher range than the fire chief.

Ryno answered that she wasn't considering what battalion chiefs are making but was comparing the fire chief's salary to the other department heads were making "and I think they should be equal to the Director of Finance and the Director of Engineering, especially when you're telling us that you don't foresee a deputy chief coming up. So this person is going to be having to do the responsibility of the deputy chief as well as their own position so why would we put them at J88?"

The police chief salary classification is set at J91, which equates to $109,428 to $11,085 annually $133,020 with benefits.

Vice Mayor Bret Durossette agreed with Ryno in suggesting the higher classification for the fire chief. The change to J90 was approved by a 5-0 vote of the City Council.

Ceres resident and former firefighter Leonard Shepherd said the city couldn't pay the fire chief enough, noting that they never get to rest since they are always on call and responsible for everything that happens within the department.

The city will be taking action to hire a fire chief. Currently the deputy chief, Bryan Nicholes, is the acting chief.

The salary for the recreation Manager was set at J69, or $9,119 to $11,085 per month.

Wells said 25 percent of Collins' salary was being spent on recreation and thus there is a savings of $21,000 for the remainder of the year taking him out of those responsibilities.