EAST CHICAGO | Fire Chief Emiliano Perez will get his wish to appoint his own deputy chief following the City Council's approval of an ordinance on Monday.
The ordinance, approved by a 5-2 vote, also allows the issuance of a 15 percent credit on the entrance examination scores of city residents who apply to the East Chicago Fire Department.
Perez told the council last month his department was the only one in the area that did not allow the appointment of a deputy chief.
He said he was pleased with the council's decision.
"I think it's good for the department, in particular, because we will be able to have a true management team that reflects the policies of this administration," Perez said.
The appointment of a deputy chief will only effect the department on the administrative side, according to Perez.
"It doesn't filter out to the line, where the assistant chiefs are in charge of their turns," he said.
Perez plans to interview candidates within the department to select a deputy chief.
Councilmen Rosendo Cuevas, D-5th, and Myrna Maldonado, D-at large, cast the two votes against the ordinance. Councilmen Robert Battle, D-3rd, and Juda Parks, D-at large, were not present for the vote.
Cuevas, a district chief in the Fire Department, said he believes the position of deputy chief should be tested for and that making it an appointed position invites politics into the department.
Both Cuevas and Maldonado said they approved of the second part of the ordinance that provides an advantage for city residents who apply to the fire department.
"I'm all in favor of the point system," Maldonado said. "Unfortunately, that point system was included with the deputy chief position."
Maldonado said she is not sure the city's current financial condition is stable enough to allow for the extra $6,600 Perez said appointing a deputy chief will likely cost the city annually.
She also said the city has recently laid off supervisors.
"In allowing for another supervisor, if you will, when the manning levels of the fire department are lower at this time, I just couldn't see the justification in it," Maldonado said.
Perez hopes giving residents a 15 percent credit on entrance exams will result in the hiring of more people from East Chicago.
"The East Chicago Fire Department has maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 individuals that live in the city, out of 69." Perez said. "That's a huge disconnect."
Perez said he does not want the attempt to hire residents to be seen as an inference that those who don't live in the city are not committed to their work.
In order to qualify for the 15 percent credit, an individual must have lived in the city for at least one year prior to taking the exam. The credit will only be applied if the resident passes the exam.