13. HAWAI`I: Hawai`i Fire Department
QUESTION: Shall the Charter of the County of Hawai`i be amended to modify Fire Department functions, Fire Chief qualifications, and Fire Commission powers and duties?To see the proposed language changes and Fiscal Impact Statements prepared by the County of Hawai`i Department of Finance, go to https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2444/.CHARTER COMMISSION SUMMARY: This proposal would add water safety as a core function of the fire department, provide for additional minimum qualification requirements for fire chief selection, and clarify fire commission powers, duties, and functions. The proposals were brought forth by the fire chief and fire commission. The commission finds that the additional of the water safety as a core function of the fire department provides clarity within the county for this important safety function. The addition of minimum education and experience requirements substantially equivalent to a bachelor's degree, ensures appropriate capacity to manage, supervise, and operate an organization responsible for first response capabilities throughout the island and off its shores. The refinements to the fire commission's powers, duties, and functions in the charter removes vague language pertaining to the fire commission's oversight responsibilities.FISCAL IMPACT: None. Water safety is currently under the Fire Department and included in their budget. This change is not expected to impact expenditures. The additional experience requirements are not expected to require an increase in salary that is set by the Salary Commission.WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS:A "YES" vote means that you are IN FAVOR of the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will be changed as proposed.A "NO" vote means that you are AGAINST the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will not be changed as proposed.ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR:-Adding water safety as a core function of the Fire Department is of critical importance, particularly since the loss of the Coast Guard operations on the island.-This proposal aligns the charter language with current practice, as the Hawai`i County Fire Department already focuses on water safety, providing training and equipment.-The qualification of education and experience equivalent to a bachelor's degree for the Fire chief is in line with requirements for some department heads.-Permitting the Fire Commission to waive residency requirements widens the applicant pool.ARGUMENTS AGAINST:-The qualification of education and experience equivalent to a bachelor's degree is excessive.-The qualification for the police chief, for example, is only five years of law enforcement work and three years in an administrative capacity.-The education requirement should be more specific, stating that the applicant for fire chief must have at least a four-year degree in a related field.-Permitting the Fire Commission to waive residency requirements means that Hawai`i County residents lose their advantage for possible hire.
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