published Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Cleveland: Merger panel calls for arson captain

By Paul Leach/Correspondent

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland/Bradley Fire/EMS Merger Task Force has voted 9-0 to include the new position of arson-fire prevention captain in its organization plans.

Task force member Ron Harrison of the Cleveland Fire Department recommended the creation of the new position, advising that it was “an unrealistic workload” for one arson investigator.

The department’s sole arson investigator now is Lt. Donnie Sullivan. Harrison said Sullivan worked 54 arson investigations in 2010, solving 17 of them. He noted that Sullivan’s success rate — about 31 percent — easily surpassed the national average of 18 percent of cases solved.

Sullivan also conducted 42 fire prevention programs in schools and another 16 for industrial/commercial audiences last year, according to Harrison.

Louie Alford, county commission chairman and task force member, questioned the costs associated with the changes.

Harrison said that, if Sullivan assumes the rank of the new captain position, the initial cost will be a salary increase for the promotion.

While the new arson-fire prevention captain will have three existing lieutenants positions under him, a fourth lieutenant position — an actual arson investigator — will remain vacant for a time.

The task force agreed to table discussion of funding the planned emergency and fire services unification until it meets again May 6. Several subcommittees assigned to the task reported they were still working through the finances.

“We have the same revenue streams; it’s just a matter of how it’s divvied up,” said Sullivan.

The Bradley County Fire Department receives funding from a county fire tax, while city property taxes fund the Cleveland Fire Department.

The task force has committed to a May 25 deadline for making its recommendations to city and county governments.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com

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