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SOUTH DAVIS FIRE DISTRICT AIMS TO REKINDLE MORALE

After having gone through more than its share of problems in recent years under former Chief John Speed, the South Davis Fire District is thoroughly cleaning house now that Speed is out of the picture.

"Change is always refreshing," said Centerville Mayor Priscilla Todd, chairwoman of the district's board of directors.Todd announced Speed's resignation and appointed deputy chiefs Brent Argyle and Terry Graham as acting chiefs on March 20. Argyle and Graham were told to examine the district's budgets and personnel assignments and come back to the board with recommendations for change.

"I just want you to know Terry and I haven't seen our families in two weeks," Argyle told the board in a meeting April 3. He added, however, that the efforts are paying off.

"We felt it was very important to get the district's morale raised before the new chief comes in," he said.

Argyle and Graham interviewed all 17 officers in the district to get their views on personnel changes that included seven changes out of 25 titled positions.

"There are obviously some out there that are more happy than others," Argyle said, "(but) this is what we perceive will get the department going in a more positive direction."

Most changes were due to administrative convenience rather than job performance, Argyle said.

Firefighter training, which has been a sore spot in the past, is also being changed. Instead of a requirement that all firefighters attend at least 90 percent of bi-monthly training sessions, the new proposal has them going through 48 hours of training per year. The new requirement can be fulfilled by attending outside training sessions, which may be tailored more toward individual needs.

"Our drills have been just a shotgun approach, but now they will be more streamlined in that (fire-fighters) will receive more training that is more specific to their responsibilities," Argyle said.

Firefighters will also be subject to a new yearly evaluation process.

"Before you could have someone who never responded to a call, never went to a fire but went to 90 percent so on paper they looked pretty good," Todd said.

The district will also now require all firefighters to conduct business inspections. The new duties will give the rank and file more comprehensive training and help take the load off Argyle, who in his position as fire marshal has been the sole inspector.

"I just had all of that over my shoulders, and it's just impossible to keep up with it all," Argyle said. He aims to have businesses within the district inspected yearly.

The fire district includes Centerville, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, West Bountiful and parts of unincorporated county land.

The district's budget looks healthy. Even with Speed's $10,000 severance pay and costs of a non-budgeted health insurance package that had to be absorbed this year, district Recorder Alan Low anticipates the district will wind up $4,000 in the black.

That's a far cry from last year, when the district ran a $43,000 deficit.

"We're just tickled pink that we could hold (the severance and health insurance) within the budget," Low said. "We feel we have a good forecast - we'll be able to close the year on a positive note."