Problems at Hillsborough Fire Rescue identified by county study for $186,000


They agreed on a new labor contract months ago and now Hillsborough firefighters and the county agree on something else. There are problems at Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.  

A new study unveiled by the county isn’t showing much new that the union didn’t already know.

Results from a union study last year revealed morale at HCFR was in the gutter.  

The union blamed Chief Dennis Jones.

County Administrator Mike Merrill wasn’t buying in. He hired Mian Talent Solutions to conduct his own study.

So far, the county has paid Mian Talent Solutions approximately $186,000 for its work. 

Deputy County Administrator Greg Horwedel briefed commissioners Wednesday on preliminary findings.

“The majority of people indicated that they loved their job. They think the equipment and apparatus provided by the department is terrific,” Horwedel told commissioners. “They also think that the chief has done the job that the chief was brought in to do.”

“Greg went up there to sugar coat this report, that’s what this is all about,” president of Union Local 2294 Derrik Ryan stated. “We have a serious morale issue at Fire Rescue.”

Where did he get the information that people believe the chief is doing a good job?

“The interviews that Dr. Mian and his team indicated they believe the chief is doing the job that he was brought in to do,” Horwedel told 8 On Your Side. 

Dr. Mian later confirmed when it came to questions about Chief Jones, his questions were limited to whether the chief brought the department’s budget under control.   

Horwedel contends some of the negative results of the union survey last year could be blamed on contract problems

“We were in the middle of a protracted labor negotiation fairly contentious because those things some times do get contentious,” he added. 

“That’s a bunch of BS,” Ryan stated. “The contract is put to bed and we still have a morale issue at Fire Rescue.” 

Several of the county’s preliminary findings mirror what the union found.

About 60 percent surveyed were engaged in their jobs.

A small percentage of those surveyed believed the chief and administrators took the right approach to firefighter fatigue and mental health.

Another key finding was only 9 percent of those surveyed felt their group had enough resources, people, units, etc. to effectively serve the community.  

Only 14 percent felt there are good ways for employees to communicate their ideas and concerns upwards.  

“They conducted a research study here for a couple hundred grand,” union consultant Travis Horn stated. “We could’ve hired four or five new firefighters that they wasted money just to prove that they got the same almost the exact same results that we got with our study.”

Horwedel told commissioners they could expect a final report from Mian Talent Solutions within 30 to 60 days.

Also, a committee made up of union members, HCFR administrators and county officials would work to identify and resolve problems the study exposed.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at

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