LATHROP – It’s been two years since the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District has had an official fire inspector.
And now they’re going to do something about it.
According to Fire Chief Gene Neely, the district has been advertising for the position for nearly six months and is currently gearing up to move forward in the hiring process. The position was left vacant after previous Fire Inspector Jeff Scialabba was arrested on possession of methamphetamine charges while in a work vehicle in May of 2009.
Since then, the downward spiral of the economy has severely impacted the financial standing of the district. It has left Neely as the lone chief left on the job. Some of the duties of the inspector were carried out by battalion and division chiefs before those positions were eliminated through attrition.
The job description requires the inspector to make sure that new businesses and those that change occupants are operating by the fire code. It involves taking preventative steps to ensure that all of the necessary requirements are met before a tenant moves in to start conducting business. Plans are gone over and checked, and fire suppression systems are tested to make sure that they’re operational.
With the reduction in staffing, and the defeat of a mail-ballot measure last month by voters that would have generated just over $1 million annually for the district, Neely has had to tackle many of the other tasks that would normally be taken care of by people occupying positions that have been left unfilled due to budgetary constraints.
While the job itself won’t be an official public safety position – meaning that the inspector won’t be going into structure fires or responding to emergency medical calls – the position does require at least an Associates of Arts Degree and 60 completed college units to be hired.
The position itself pays less than an entry-level firefighter position.
In the last two weeks the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Board of Directors have responded to the defeated ballot measure by instituting a rotating brownout system for the four fire stations within the district’s boundaries.
The first to be browned out was Station 32 on South Union Road, but Neely said that is not a permanent move and it will reopen when another station comes up in the rotation.