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Council OK's hiring of fire battalion chief

Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham's persistence has finally paid off as the Sunnyside City Council gave the okay for the city to hire a battalion chief/fire marshal position at the city's fire department.

The position has been the subject at many council workshops and was discussed before the 2010 budget was adopted by council in late 2009. Council appropriated funds for the position in the 2010 budget but requested more information from Markham before it would give its approval.

There were several reasons why Markham wanted the position, most notably the fact that the city is far behind on completing its yearly fire inspections of businesses in town. Markham told the council the city needs to do between 1,000 and 1,100 fire inspections annually. When the position gets filled, Markham said it will probably take at least 18 months before the city is caught up.

Besides conducting fire inspections, the battalion chief/fire marshal will schedule fire prevention education activities, conduct fire investigations, and plan reviews for construction, fire alarm systems and fire suppression systems.

The position will also help relieve Markham and Deputy Fire Chief Lloyd Hazzard from being on call 50 percent of the time.

This position is not new, it just hasn't been filled for several years. Markham has been fulfilling the duties of the position since 2005.

Council had asked Markham if the city would be better off contracting with an outside agency or the county to perform fire inspections instead of hiring a battalion chief/fire marshal. Currently the city performs fire inspections for businesses at no charge.

Markham pulled a copy of a fire and life safety inspection the county had done at a church on Scoon Road. The county charged $200.35 for the inspection of a 1,792 square foot building.

The city will spend approximately $100,112 annually for the position. This amount includes the salary and the cost of the benefits associated with the position.

Markham said the position could be filled in three to four weeks. He expects to hire from within the department.

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