MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 6, 2010

City considers raising age limit for fire department applicants

— Older applicants could seek work with the Muskogee Fire Department under a possible revision to the Muskogee City Charter.

Members of the Muskogee Charter Review Committee discussed raising the age limit for Fire Department applicants from 30 to 45 years, but keeping the minimum age at 21. The committee took no action, but directed City Attorney John Vincent to redraft the proposal for review at the committee meeting on July 20. The proposal might be sent to voters this year.

The committee approved a suggestion, also subject to voter approval, to revise the charter to authorize city council members to make up a nine-member redistricting commission to reset ward boundaries according to population shifts. The council chose that proposal over one that would have authorized the council to appoint a commission and one that would have created the commission according to city ordinance.

The suggested charter revisions would be subject to voter approval, but no date has been set for a charter election. Vincent said election paperwork must be sent to the Muskogee County Election Board at least 60 days in advance if the election is to be placed on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

At its Monday meeting, the committee looked at three suggested charter revisions for employment at the fire department. All three deleted a requirement that the applicant live in Muskogee for at least one year before appointment and all three deleted the phrase that the applicant undergo an examination by the “city physician.” One proposal kept the maximum age at 30, a second raised the maximum age to 35, the third raised the limit to 45.

Muskogee Fire Chief Derek Tatum said 45 is as old an applicant can get to qualify for a state pension at age 65.

He said the current charter narrows the pool of potential candidates for the department.

“We expect a big turnover in 2012, but we will not be able to fill the ranks unless we change the charter,” Tatum said.

He said applicants would have to pass a physical agility test. A proposed revision added that applicants exempted from age requirements by statute also could apply. The committee asked that the language be simplified. The committee also asked that the proposal be rewritten to require an applicant undergo a physical examination according to the city hiring policy.

Committee member Shawn Raper and Mayor John Tyler Hammons disagreed on whether the redistricting commission be appointed by the council or be made up of council members. Hammons said a committee made up of citizens takes the redistricting “out of city council hands.” Raper said having the commission be made up of council members would be simpler.

Committee members also agreed to continue tabling discussion or action on other proposed charter changes until the committee decides discussion is appropriate.

Committee members appointed James Gulley as chairman and Raper as vice chairman.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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