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7/14/2006
Councilman Weiner: "Hire very best employees to serve County"

Council wants review of hiring practices of emergency personnel

By Jesse Chadderdon
Staff Reporter

A resolution that would allow the county to hire outside candidates for the assistant chief of the New Castle County Paramedics was tabled after receiving opposition from several council members.
The bill would allow the Department of Human Resources to accept external applicants for the position if a qualified candidate could not be found internally.
Several council members said they believed the hiring process should be changed across the board to allow the Department of Human Resources to post jobs internally and externally at the same time.
“How can we claim to be an equal opportunity employer when we are giving a special, select group an advantage in the hiring process,” said Councilman Penrose Hollins (D-Wilmington North). “I will not support something that guarantees discrimination in our hiring practices.”
Councilman Jea Street (D-Wilmington South) said a recent event in which two unnamed paramedics accidentally left a message on his telephone with what he perceived as discriminatory comments and the fact that the county paramedic force has only five minorities out of a force of 103 are evidence that
the county should be looking to fill its ranks from the outside.
“It is fully my intention to stop the status quo,” Street said. “I don’t want to hear from leadership that we are locked in and don’t want to change.”
Union leaders representing paramedics and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel said at the July 11 meeting of the county council’s Public Safety Committee that the bill would infringe upon the rank system set up to promote internal advancement.
“You’re not discriminating when you’re trying to pull experienced people up through the system,” said David Carpenter, president of AFSCME Local 109. “You’ve made a promise to encourage a career development plan.”
Kenneth Dunn, who heads the paramedics union Local 3911, agreed.
“We’re asking for consistency on the EMS side and the police side in terms of a career ladder,” he said. “If an assistant chief came here from somewhere else, they would have to get their Delaware certification by working with a field training officer and at the end of the process, they’d be the boss of the person that trained them.”
Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) said he also urged Council President Paul Clark, the bill’s sponsor, to table the bill so the council could review how to make hiring in both the police and paramedic units more uniform.
“I agree that such a change needs to be consistently applied across the board in all departments and we have a challenge to address the need for new ideas in the departments,” he said. “In the end, it is important to have outside competition to ensure that we get the best employees to serve the county residents.”
Taskforce to study finances
The 13-member council unanimously approved a resolution that calls for the creation of a task force to study the county’s financial picture going forward.
The nine-member task force will include appointees of County Executive Chris Coons and Council President Paul Clark, as well as Chief Financial Officer Michael Strine and Councilwoman Karen Venezky (D-Newark), chairwoman of the council’s Finance Committee.
Specific recommendations for bringing annual revenues in line with ongoing expenditures will be due by the end of December. Specifically, the task force will study:
•the use and realignment of county assets, including county parks and facilities;
•the system for compensating county employees;
•the fairness and adequacy of the county’s property tax system and the potential need for reassessment or changes to exemptions;
•the county’s revenues and fee for services in comparison to other jurisdictions;
•the efficiency and effectiveness of county programs and services;
•how plans for future land development will affect the projected growth in county revenue and expenses.
“This task force is about the future and where our priorities will be how and how we will fund them,” said Venezky, who sponsored the legislation. “The public will benefit from the extensive analysis.”
Changes made to design review groups
Legislation sponsored by Councilman William Tansey (R-Greenville) and unanimously approved by the council formally changes the provisions setting up localized Design Review Advisory Committees (DRAC) in Hometown Overlay districts like Hockessin and Claymont.
The bill changes the code to formally allow the committees, which are made up of residents, to review and land use plans in the district, not just land “development” plans. Many design changes are not technically considered
“development” plans, but were being reviewed by the DRAC committees in practice anyway.

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