Bloomington Fire Department Chief Resigns Amidst Staffing and Pay Concerns

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – DECEMBER 2: Members of the Bloomington Fire Department mop up a structure fire in the area of South Walnut and East Driscoll Street on December 2, 2023, in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Editor’s note: We saw a report in another outlet quoting Bloomington Fire Chief Jason Moore as saying news reports made it seem he was resigning over pay and staffing, in part. We would just like to clarify, amidst means that this was going on when he resigned, not that he said that was the reason. We had reached out to Moore, and he said he didn’t wish to make a public statement about the reasons for his resignation. However, last spring, the local firefighters union sent a message about pay, and staffing, which is still an issue. Many veteran firefighters have left the department, and firefighters will be up for union negotiations soon, meanwhile, according to sources, other fire departments in other Indiana cities are paying more than Bloomington does, so depending on what’s negotiated, Bloomington may still be behind what others are paying. So, yes, at the time of Moore’s resignation, pay and staffing was an issue. However, the reasons behind Moore’s departure aren’t entirely clear because he indicated he’d rather not speak publicly about that. At the same time, fire union president Jordan Canada stated, “Myself and Local 586 look forward to working with the next Mayor and future city council members.”

We hope this clarifies any misunderstanding. If we find out more about the upcoming union negotiations, and how they will make firefighter pay in Bloomington competitive with other departments, we will have a story.


Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – December 5, 2023

Bloomington Fire Department Chief Jason Moore has announced his resignation effective December 31, 2023, citing a misalignment with the future trajectory and vision of the new City leadership.

In an email obtained by the Bloomingtonian, Moore expressed gratitude to the department for their unwavering professionalism and dedication during his nearly eight-year tenure as chief. He acknowledged the highs and lows experienced together, emphasizing the collective improvements made in working conditions and community safety.

“While I realize there are still big challenges ahead, I am hopeful that you are on a great path,” Moore stated in his letter. He highlighted unresolved issues concerning staffing levels, pay, and dispatch services, expressing hope for continued support from the City administration and Council to address these concerns.

The announcement of Moore’s resignation was confirmed by the City of Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s administration following inquiries by the Bloomingtonian.

Mayor-Elect Kerry Thomson’s spokesperson, Jeff Harris, conveyed gratitude for Moore’s service and assured the initiation of a search for a suitable replacement. An interim appointment is expected to be announced soon, according to Harris.

The resignation comes amidst ongoing concerns raised by Jordan Canada, the Union President for the City of Bloomington Firefighters. Canada highlighted issues of low staffing and pay disparities within the department in a communication last spring. He warned of an imminent shortage of 17 firefighters by June and emphasized the exodus of experienced personnel seeking better-paying opportunities elsewhere.

When the Bloomingtonian reached out to Canada, he replied in part with, “Myself and Local 586 look forward to working with the next Mayor and future city council members.”

Moore’s departure marks a pivotal moment for the Bloomington Fire Department, prompting the City administration to prioritize addressing persistent concerns over staffing and compensation within the department as they navigate the process of selecting a new leader to helm the vital emergency service.

Text of Moore’s letter:

“BFD Members,
First and foremost, I want to thank you all for the job you do 24/7 and for your support over my nearly eight years as fire chief. We have had our highs and lows but throughout the entire journey I never worried a single day about your collective professionalism and ability to protect our community. Together we have improved the working conditions, and safety of our members and the community. While I realize there are still big challenges ahead, I am hopeful that you are on a great path with continued support from the City administration and Council to correct the last three major hurdles to elevate you to the staffing levels, pay, and dispatch services you deserve. New and updated apparatus and facilities are on the horizon; the long-term plans that have been developed will ensure the sustainability of replacement cycles and properly provide for your needs to be able to serve the community. You have proven the ability to overcome any major challenge that is thrown your way and I am thankful for the many lessons you have provided me. Most of you have allowed me to be the Chief I wanted to be who elevates your successes and celebrates the results of your professionalism and dedication. I am a better chief and person than I was when I got here and many of you are personally responsible for my growth and development. I will always be your biggest fan and look forward to the evolution of a department that has positive, energetic, and passionate leaders. Remember to always take the high road, care for each other, and never forget that this is the best job in the world. The fire service is one that at the end of your life you will not have to look back and wonder if you made a difference in the world.
While I initially desired to be a 20-year chief, you deserve a leader who is in alignment with the future trajectory and vision of the new City leadership. With that, it is with gratitude that I am formally announcing my intention to resign as the Fire Chief effective December 31, 2023. I am committed to a professional transition and will always be a resource to any of you who need it.”

Canada’s e-mail last March:

Good afternoon everyone

As Union President for the City of Bloomington Firefighters I am reaching out to you all in hopes of getting our story out to the public. In 2021 I went to the Herald Times with issues of pay and low staffing. As I predicted then of our low staffing, come June we will be down 17 firefighters. This is one of the biggest turnovers we have seen. We are also the lowest paid fire department in Monroe County. As a department we are losing firefighters with years of experience and the new firefighters we hire often leave once they have the necessary fire certifications to go onto better paying departments. I reached out to John Hamliton last year in hopes of getting a retention bonus and having the possibility of renegotiating the last year of our contract (2024) this year. After months of meeting Hamliton and members of his administration, it seemed as if we never discussed the possibility of renegotiating our last year. This will most certainly put us behind in many aspects from pay to staffing. I have been urgent in our needs but we feel unheard. I hope that our union can meet with all of you and present the facts of the situation. 

       
Respectfully,

Union President Local 586
Jordan Canada”

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