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Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Firefighter Promotions:
"Now You See Em' – Now You Don't"

Posted October 30, 2014  03:15 pm | Updated 05:30 pm

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Some Columbia County Firefighters are taking it on the chin and in the pocket book, as the County drags its feet on promotions to the firefighter Driver/Engineer positions, that were by some accounts, promised months ago. The County Management's reason for not filling the positions is that there are no open positions. The Fire Chiefs apparently believed there were. Yesterday, after the Observer heard more rumblings from the Fire Department regarding the failed promotions, an inquiry was made. County Manager Dale Williams wasn't available for comment, but Assistant County Manager Ben Scott was.


Assist. Chief Crawford's email told a different story than that of the County.

In 2014, Columbia County's infamous County Commission, the County 5, spent $23,000 on a faux salary study and what must have been another $10k to $20k more on staff and Constitutional Officer [Tax Collector, Sheriff, Clerk of the Courts, Prop. Appraiser] time to come up with more salary figures. This doesn't include the time of every county or municipality Columbia County contacted for their salary figures, which were ultimately just ignored.

The Columbia County Budget shows Fire Department personnel costs rising every year for the past three years: FY 2013 – $2,116,967; FY 2014 – $3,254,823; FY 2015 – $3,384,303, which was the only year of a salary increase.

The Columbia County Fire Department's Standard Operating Procedures were last revised in 2008. There is nothing in the SOP regarding any point system for promotion.

Different County documents show a staffing level of either 3 or 4 Firefighter Driver/Engineers. The 2013 County Personnel Budget spreadsheet shows 4 funded Driver/Engineers.

Ben Scott

The County's Position

Yesterday, Mr. Scott said, "If those firefighters are waiting on a position that doesn't exist they need to talk to their chief and say, 'Where are we at creating these positions?'"

He continued, "I'm going to call Chief Boozer and say -- hey -- in the budget we talked about the driver/engineer position and we said you all -- have you all developed that plan?"

The Observer has not been able to find any document or County PowerPoint, which is one of the preferred ways Columbia County presents its business, verifying that statement.

In a follow-up call, Mr. Scott said, "There's a budget process. They [presumably the FD] presented this plan for Engineer/Drivers. We asked them to give us some information on -- the plan is to be able to retain our firefighters that we are training -- in order to retain them -- we're going to create these other positions that they could move into."

Mr. Scott said that the "David's" [Safety Manager David Kraus and Fire Chief David Boozer] "are supposed to be developing a plan. They were asked to put together a plan to show us the retention schedule and that they said they hope to have this plan completed sometime in November."

Mr. Scott continued, "We were doing this so that we are not losing firefighters to surrounding counties after we get them trained. We can implement this new program where we have some extra Driver/Engineer positions so that firefighters have a position to move into."

Your reporter inquired, "The folks that took the test. They took the test in July. Folks are wondering why they haven't gotten promoted."

Mr. Scott responded, "We don't have any positions right now."

The Fireman & Asst. Chief: A different story

Asst. Chief Crawford

It was reported to the Observer that there are a dozen Driver/Engineer positions to be filled and the belief is they had been funded. Also reported was 15 firefighters took the test and the top 12 were told they were getting promoted. The testing for the position took place in July.

By September, the folks that thought they were scheduled for a promotion and the pay raise that went along with it were getting antsy.

Assistant Chief Jeff Crawford, the Fire Department's number two, addressed the firefighters' concerns in an email dated September 10, 2014:

I know that you all have been eagerly awaiting the promotions to take place. I have been hearing a lot of questions as to when this will take place. This is where we are at this point. The interview and ranking process have been completed. The lists have been given to Chief Boozer. Chief Boozer has prepared the paperwork for the promotions and sent it up to the county offices. At this point it is out of our hands. It is up to the county administration to give us the go ahead to do the promotions... I am asking everyone to please not get discouraged and have a little patience.


The infamous Columbia County 5's backroom dealing, double talk, inattention to detail, historical animosity toward citizens that question or criticize its actions, and retribution toward employees that speak up or out, leads to the kind of dueling stories outlined above.

The County staff has many qualified, intelligent and industrious employees, who when left to their own devices can excel, as demonstrated by its sterling compliance with the spirit and intent of Florida's Public Record Law and a website that is rated among the top five in Florida.

It is The 5 that makes this "now you see em' – now you don't" business, business as usual in Columbia County.

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