Fire Union, Council Offer Support for Fire Department Study

City Council and the fire fighters' union have offered their support for a state-funded comprehensive review of the fire department's operations.

The Nutter administration last month asked the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority -- the city's state-appointed fiscal watchdog -- to fund a complete independent review of the fire department, which would included everything from finances to deployment. Nutter officials put the likely cost of such a study at $300,000 to $450,000.

But PICA board members at the time said they wanted buy-in from Council and the union to move forward with the plan. PICA Board President Jim Eisenhower today said that the letters of support are encouraging. The board will vote on whether to fund the study next week.

"I’m glad to see the union and most of council that they have the confidence that we can be fair and impartial," Eisenhower said. "I am certainly going to vote in favor of it."

In letters to PICA, fire fighters' union President Bill Gault and City Council President Anna Verna expressed support for the project. Both stressed that they expected the study to be done in cooperation with the union.

"The worst possible outcome would be a study that is rejected as bias by our City's firefighters and those who represent them," Verna wrote.

Eisenhower said that if PICA moves ahead with the study, he'd welcome input from the union and Council on how to draft the request for proposals and who should get the contract.

Eryn Santamoor, who serves as director of strategic initiatives for the fire department, developed the idea for the study and authored the proposal presented to PICA. Pittsburgh did a similar study of their fire department in 2008.

Councilman Jim Kenney also wrote a letter backing the study. Here are PDFs of the letters from Gault, Kenney and Verna.