Parkersburg Fire Department changes residency policy

PARKERSBURG – A change in policy will allow the Parkersburg Fire Department to recruit new firefighters from Belpre.

The department’s policy required all firefighters to be residents of Wood County. On Tuesday, City Council’s Personnel Committee unanimously approved a change in that policy, allowing residency to be within a radius of 28 miles of the City Municipal Building.

Fire Chief Eric Taylor said the change will allow applicants from Belpre to take the civil service test this summer, which is given every three years.

Taylor said in recent years the number of applicants taking the exam has dropped significantly, and the change in the residency policy will allow the department to draw in more applicants, he hopes.

Taylor said Wood County covers a 28-mile radius, and the change in policy would simply allow that radius to extend into Ohio. There would be no change in response times, he said.

Councilwoman Nancy Wilcox asked Taylor if there would be a way to give greater weight to candidates from Wood County if multiple applicants qualified for the job.

“I’d hate to hire five people from over there and not hire someone from here,” Wilcox said, referring to applicants from Ohio. For the West Virginia candidate, “this is their city.”

Taylor said applicants are given a score based on their performance on the entrance exam, which is dictated by the state.

“Honestly, I want the best firefighter. I don’t necessarily want the best West Virginia firefighter,” Taylor said.

In other business, the committee also approved the hiring of a part-time civilian clerk for the Parkersburg Police Department. Police Chief Joe Martin said in recent years the department has had issues keeping up with calls, paperwork and covering absences with a limited clerical staff.

The 20-hour-a-week position would be paid for with internal funds until July 1 when it would then become a permanent position, Martin said.