EAST CHICAGO | Fire Chief Emiliano Perez recently told the City Council he hopes an ordinance creating a deputy fire chief wins final approval.
Perez said his department is the only one in the area that does not allow a deputy chief and he believes he should have the authority to make that appointment.
"I think that when you're a department head you should be able to pick those people that are most like you in your management style and are willing to carry out your policies," Perez said.
In the end, the City Council approved the ordinance by a 6-3 vote on the first and second readings, but it still must pass on the third reading before being presented to Mayor Anthony Copeland.
Councilman Rosendo Cuevas, D-5th, a district chief in the Fire Department, said having the fire chief as the only person appointed helps keep politics out of the department.
"What I'm trying to get away from is having another appointed position, when it should be tested for like every other position, especially if there's more money involved," Cuevas said.
Perez said promoting a current member of the department to deputy chief likely would only cost the city about $6,600 more annually.
Councilman Myrna Maldonado, D-at large, said she has financial concerns regarding the appointment.
"To ask for another supervisor when overall the city has been laying off folks is a little difficult for me right now," she said.
The second part of the ordinance the council considered involves awarding extra credit on entrance exams for residents of the city who successfully complete the exams to join the Fire Department.
"If they're a resident of East Chicago, I would like to give them a 15 percent credit, bump up, to try and encourage more East Chicago folks to apply and for us to hire more people from East Chicago on the Fire Department," Perez said.
Councilman Juda Parks, D-at large, asked if the chief would mandate a resident hired would have to continue to live in the city for a certain period of time.
Perez said state statute would not allow such a stipulation, but his plan is to require those eligible for the extra credit to have been a resident of the city for at least a year prior to the testing date.