City approves, 2-1, county agreementto fund 911 center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2002

Fire department requirements drop

[09/26/02]New firefighters will no longer be required to have a minimum of 40 hours of college credit to get a job with the Vicksburg Fire Department.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 2-1 Wednesday to remove that part of the requirements at the request of Fire Chief Keith Rogers. North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who had voted to put the college requirement in place during the previous administration, voted against Rogers’ request.

“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” Young said of the State Fire Academy requiring applicants to be sponsored by a Mississippi fire department.

“Having a job before the training, that’s backwards,” she said.

The qualification requirements also have to be ratified by the Vicksburg Civil Service Commission before taking effect.

The city board debated the request for two weeks before Mayor Laurence Leyens sided with Rogers and broke the deadlock between the two aldermen. While Young stood firm on her previous position, South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, whose son is employed with the Vicksburg Fire Department, had argued that the college hours are not necessary for someone to be an EMT or firefighter.

“It left me in the hot seat,” Leyens said.

Leyens said that he had sought public opinion before making his decision, but that about half the people he spoke to felt the education requirements are needed while the other half felt they were not.

He also asked the fire department to seek requirements from other departments around the country to compare. While most other departments around the state do not require any college; New York City; Austin, Texas, and Houston all require higher education. Monroe, Los Angeles and Montgomery, Ala., do not.

“I still think the hours requirement will help the outcome, but I’m going to support you,” Leyens said.

Police and fire education requirements have bounced up and down during the past decade.

The requirement that all applicants to the fire department have a minimum of 40 hours of college credit was approved in March 2001. Rogers said that since the policy was put in place, it has not improved the caliber of applicants, but has shut the door to many qualified Vicksburg and Warren County residents.

The Vicksburg Police Department also requires 40 hours of college, but that policy was not changed in Wednesday’s vote.

“There are people with college degrees who can’t read,” said Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon. “Your best candidate may not have a degree.”

The Vicksburg Fire Department’s current requirements also include scoring a 17 or higher on the American College Test in order to be admitted to the Emergency Medical Technician classes offered at Hinds Community College. Those requirements will not change.

Fire personnel must also achieve the basic level of medical certification during their first year on the job.

In other matters the city board:

Accepted a letter on behalf of N2 Worms appealing the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals and set a hearing for Oct. 25.

Accepted a $1,000 donation from Wal-Mart to the Vicksburg Senior Center.

Awarded bids for tree cutting.

Approved a $100 full-page ad in the Sixth Annual Freedom Fund Banquet souvenir program booklet for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Approved a $120 ad for the fifth annual “Women’s Day of Health” at River Region Medical Center on Oct. 23.

Authorized street closings for the Porter’s Chapel Academy homecoming Parade at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11 on Washington Street.

Authorized closing Gordon’s Alley from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5 for the Downtown Fall Festival.

Authorized street closings for Warren Central’s homecoming parade at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 3.

Amended the city’s new truck route ordinance to exempt tour buses.

Declared surplus property and authorized its sale at auction.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday at City Hall Annex.