By Ross Markman
Wordy, lengthy and unclear are just a few of the adjectives Fire Chief Dave Sheppard used Monday night to describe the Havre Fire Department's current rules and regulations.
That's why Sheppard has drafted a new set of rules, detailing the do's and don'ts for fire department personnel. He presented the list of regulations and department policies to the Police and Fire Committee Monday night.
"There are rules right now, but they're fairly wordy. There's a large gray area," Sheppard said. "It's just more difficult to follow all the rules because there were so many. I'm just trying to make it more concise."
The current list of rules, written more than a year ago by then Fire Chief Craig Ellingson, is 10 pages long. Sheppard's is two.
Many are redundant, merely reiterating state law or city ordinance, Sheppard said.
"Every fire chief that comes into office makes up a set of rules and regulations," said Sheppard, who's been working on his version since assuming the position in August.
"This is just trying to get them squared away and simplified," he added.
Before that's possible, the City Council, which met following the Police and Fire Committee, agreed to have city attorney Jim Kaze review the suggested rules and regulations.
"It's just vague, some of the language," council president Richard Pierson said. "It needs to be looked at so the city is protected."
"I think it's a good idea to have the city attorney look at it," he said.
Pierson cited one proposed rule that says fire department employees "shall not abuse their sick leave."
"What constitutes abuse?" Pierson said at the meeting.
"There's another rule in there that says you can't use debilitating drugs while on duty," he said today. "I think the language there could be more precise, adding that you can't come to work under the influence."
The new rules, meanwhile, are not based on specific incidents or violations that have occurred within the department, Sheppard said.
"I don't mean to imply that (the department's employees) don't know or follow the rules," he said.
Pierson said although he doesn't recall any fire department regulations being broken during his eight years on council, he'd still prefer Kaze to review the rules.
"I believe if there are any changes, it will be for a specific reason," Pierson said. "We need to make sure it fulfills its purpose. Rules and regulations are there for a reason. The language needs to be right."