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City hires consulting firm to conduct assessment of Greenville Fire-Rescue

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The city of Greenville has hired an outside consultant group to conduct an assessment of the department.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Following months of allegations of mismanagement and unusually high employee turnover at the Greenville Fire-Rescue Department, the city of Greenville has hired an outside consultant group to conduct an assessment of the department.

On Friday, the city announced the hiring of Developmental Associates LLC, a consulting firm that will conduct targeted interviews, small group meetings at fire stations and an employee survey.

According to the proposal of from the firm, the total cost of the assessment will be $29,500. The assessment will be conducted from March 20 to April 15. The firm has conducted similar assessments and analysis of multiple city fire departments across the state, including the cities of Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and New Bern.

The assessment will be largely conducted through a series of interviews with department employees. According to the proposal, the firm will meet high-level city and department officials before having small group and targeted interviews to identify key concerns.

The proposal, signed by senior partner of the consulting firm Heather Lee, said these types of interviews are the most effective way of identifying concerns in an organization. 

“Beyond achieving a better understanding of issues and prioritizing needs, holding individual sessions with firefighters almost always has a significant positive impact on firefighter morale because the firefighters are able to see that leadership wants to hear from them and that their opinions are valuable,” the proposal stated.

The firm also will create an employee survey that will allow current employees of the department to submit anonymous feedback. At the end of these two phases, the firm will provide an assessment of the department to senior leadership and the city manager. 

In an email sent to department employees on Friday, City Manager Ann Wall said the decision was part of an effort to understand issues affecting city departments.

“The fire and emergency medical services are changing at a rapid pace,” she said. ”All departments must work to keep pace with these rapid changes to ensure high-quality public services and the safe keeping of our employees."

A statement released by the Fire-Rescue department said it welcomes the assessment as a valuable opportunity. 

“We welcome the chance to partner with them and see it as an opportunity for the continuous improvement of the services we offer the City of Greenville,” The department’s statement said. 

Concerns about staffing problems were raised, among other allegations, in August after the East Carolina University student newspaper published the first of a series of articles citing current and former employees concerns about a variety of topics. At the City Council’s annual planning meetings in January, Wall said she was concerned about staffing problems throughout the city, including the fire-rescue and police departments. 

“It seems like we do have some issues with vacancies and we need to understand what they are,” she said. “To understand what strategies we have in place to address those issues, particularly those that are systemic in the departments.” 

In a separate statement released from Wall on Friday, she said the assessment will help the city identify challenges the department may be facing, as well as catalog what employees and city leaders believe is functioning efficiently. 

“One of our city’s top priorities is public safety, and we strive to provide the highest-quality public services to make our city a safer place” she said. “We recognize that we have a dedicated workforce in the fire-rescue department that helps us fulfill that mission, and this assessment will help us identify what is working well, some of the key issues we face, and what opportunities there may be moving forward.”

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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