I see where the Coweta County Commission admirably approved an additional 27 firefighter positions for Coweta County Fire Rescue who are still officially 29 positions short of full staffing. This would indicate 56 fire fighters need to be recruited, hired, and trained. But that ain’t-a-gonna happen any time soon.
The problem with CCFR is this nagging reputation as a department run by an overreaching county administrator, collusion with a county HR administrator resulting in disparaging terminations, lowest pay around, no traditional pension, mandatory overtime, canceled vacations, critical ambulance divergence, multi-million-dollar civil lawsuits for past administrative indiscretions and a county commission unwilling to clean house and start from scratch.
I am getting information that four paramedics have handed in their resignation notices this week with a rumored four more waiting in the wings to jump from a ship that is sinking.
And if the truth of “brown-outs” are true, I find it hard to believe things have gotten so bad that fire houses are empty and apparatuses are being unmanned all due to personnel shortages several times a week.
Attrition is when personnel exit in greater numbers through the back door than walk in the front door. Retention is the act of closing the back door.
Coweta County Commission has allowed this fire department to be as the biblical house that was built on sand (dwindling toxic reputation) and when the rain fell (experienced personnel were terminated) and the floods came (disgruntled personnel quit), and the winds blew and beat on the house (forced mandatory overtime), and it fell and great was the fall (fire personnel staffing reaching critical mass). (Matthew 7:24-27).
I call for Coweta County Commissioners to initiate an outside, independent attrition consultant to objectively evaluate the true reasons for this mass exodus of fire fighters. And if justified, to terminate all personnel who have ever made decisions that have resulted in wrongful CCFR terminations, past and pending civil litigation resulting in monumental monetary settlements, policy writers that have failed to follow well established best-practices and accepted industry standards, failed to have succeeded in pursuing meaningful retention programs, and data pointing cause and relation to areas of attrition.
Newnan and Peachtree City FD do not have personnel resigning due to discontent, chaos and drama worse than the fireworks at a Grantville City Council meeting, mass underfilled positions and ongoing attrition problems. Why? Is it because of their higher pay, city-paid old school pension programs, contracted ambulance services, and well-established progressive discipline instead of knee-jerk terminations?
The Coweta County Commission needs to demonstrate that the sins of the past and fools who held court there are gone and a new page has been turned. No one will accept a job as a firefighter with CCFR as long as their divisive reputation is still in place.
Initiate across the board firefighter pay increases should be accompanied with righteous retention bonuses immediately. County paid traditional pension programs should be reintroduced and funded.
Exit interviews should be mandatory for those resigning from CCFR and trending exit causation should be discussed and resolved at each monthly council meeting. If a lawsuit is paid due to the actions of a sloppy or irrational administrator, that administrator should be terminated, not patted on the head like a favorite child.
It's going to be expensive, but continuing to put up with ongoing stupidity has cost Coweta citizens too much already.
W.J. Butcher is a Coweta County resident and retired 27-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department.