Police and fire chiefs to be eliminated?
On May 16 the residents of East Longmeadow will be asked under Article # 22 to eliminate the position of Police Chief and Fire Chief and create a new position of Director/Commissioner of Public Safety. The real mission is to have the current Police Chief take over both departments.
I would first like to say I was on the search committee for Chief Mellis when he was hired. I worked with the chief for several years on a professional basis and have a high respect for him and his command structure of his department. Having said that, his experience and credentials say "POLICE Chief," without any mention of firefighting on his resume.
The statement from the Board of Selectmen is that it will be a cost saving move and he would be an "administrator" only. Increase the chief's pay by $30,000; increase the senior sergeant or other daily commander by how much? Increase the deputy fire chief's pay by how much to take on the extra bread and butter daily operation of the department: The savings are where?
Our town structures are increasing. Our population has increased to shy of 16,000 people. The number of emergency responses is increasing every year. More and more demands are being put on both departments daily. You need a credentialed Police Chief and a credentialed Fire Chief to command their respective departments, not another layer of administration. We already have Police and Fire Commissioners: The Board of Selectmen.
If the Fire Chief's position is eliminated, the Deputy Chief would move into a command mode and one less firefighter would be hands on at the incident. With this elimination, there would only be six firefighters on duty when fully staffed to respond to an incident. When two firefighters are off duty there would only be three firefighters responding as one would remain in the alarm room. This has a major impact on the firefighting operation and public safety.
The Fire Chief must retire July 2012, at which time a new Fire Chief should be in place. As we did with the Police Chief, put a selection committee together appointed by the Selectmen. Have interviews and do background checks, and forward to the Selectmen the top three names of the candidates who had the best interview, have the best resume and the highest "FIRE" credentials.
When you have a broken water pipe, you don't call an electrician. Please attend the Town Meeting on May 16 and vote "NO" on Article #22 for the safety of every resident of this town.
Chief P. Robert Wallace (retired)
East Longmeadow Fire Department