Commissioner Continued from page 1 Driscoll said the town stands
to save approximately $70,000 through this change in the departments’ structure. “If we paid a fire chief $70,000, with the costs that go along with that, such as benefits, it’s about 30 percent on top of that $70,000,” Driscoll said. “So in reality, it’s a $100,000 expense to the town.” The figure of $70,000 is the
average salary for a fire chief in Massachusetts, according to Driscoll, and even if the town applied the extra 30 percent toward raises for Mellis and Rybacki, who will have to take on added responsibility, it would save more than 10 percent of its total operating costs.
Driscoll said that Mellis’
administrative prowess in the Police Department and his reputation in the community and throughout the state were major reasons why the board felt it was prudent to move forward and bring the proposal to town meeting. “We have a known entity in our police chief. He has been recognized by his peers as an excellent chief and he is a great administrator,” Driscoll said. “If we didn’t have him, we probably wouldn’t consider this at all.” Driscoll said he had talked with Brady and fire chiefs from around the state and admitted that he did not find a fire chief or
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association anywhere that supported this command structure. “However, I have not seen any
evidence to show that it could not work,” Driscoll said, pointing out that “demotivation” was the main concern of those he talked to that voiced opposition. Several members of the community pressed Driscoll to name Massachusetts towns and cities that have successfully implemented such an infrastructure and Driscoll said he could not name any. “There are not any towns in our situation with an 8 [a.m.] to 4 [p.m.] Fire Department with call service that use this system,” Driscoll said. “My research has shown that there are towns throughout the country that have successfully used this, but most of them are in larger communities and have full 24-hour fire coverage.”
Retired East Longmeadow
Fire Chief Forrest Goodrich raised major objections to the proposal, stating there is more to the job of fire chief than administrative duties, including investigation and permitting.
“It took me 24 years to know
all of the fire laws. A chief had better know every law and regulation,” Goodrich said. “Investigating is a very important part of the job and it’s very time consuming.”
Driscoll said that other members of the Fire Department, namely Rybacki, also perform those duties and would continue to do so.
East Longmeadow resident
HONOR AWARD Diana Demetrius of Wilbraham, and a physical education teacher at the Mapleshade Elementary School in East Longmeadow, has been selected by the Massachusetts Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD) to receive an
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APRIL 25-MAY 1, 2011 Page 19
Eric Madison, who is fire chief of the Longmeadow Fire Department, raised concerns with the functionality of the department under such a command structure and added that the role of a fire chief is such that it is impossible to separate the administrative role from the active role in fighting fires.
“You can’t talk about one without the other and to say you can shows how little your understanding of it is,” Madison said.
Madison and former East
Longmeadow Fire Chief Robert Wallace pointed out that in most cases, the deputy fire chief is in charge of the scene of a fire until the fire chief arrives. At that point, the deputy chief joins the rest of the firefighters in actively battling a blaze. Under the proposed structure, the deputy chief would not actively fight fires. “How can you afford to lose another firefighter?” Madison asked. “I don’t think the fire chief engaged an active fire this year,” Driscoll said. “There has never been a point where we’re hurting for coverage.”
Resident Robert Hildreth also pointed out that when Mellis retires, “to refill the position would be a difficult task.” Driscoll conceded the point and said that when that happens, the town may want to look at going back to a command structure that includes separate police and fire chiefs.
Mellis declined to comment on the proposal when contacted by Reminder Publications.
Honor Award. She was selected because of her outstanding contributions to the profession of physical education. The award will be presented to Demetrius at MAHPERD’s Honors and Award Banquet on May 1 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Westborough.
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