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Controversy surrounds fate of public safety Falcons


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April 27,2011 East Longmeadow, Longmeadow,Hampden,Wilbraham & Sixteen Acres FREE HOMETOWN NEWSPAPER


By Chris Maza Reminder Assistant Editor


EAST LONGMEADOW – Emo- tions ran high at a public hearing on April 20, at which Selectman James Driscoll unveiled the plan for consolidating the fire chief and police chief positions into one commissioner of public safety. “Anyone have a [Red] Sox score?” Driscoll joked amidst a barrage of criticism that came from residents, many of whom are current or former firefighters, in an effort to relieve some tension. The proposal, which will be


put to a vote at the Annual Town Meeting on May 16, would make Police Chief Douglas Mellis the public safety commissioner and place him in charge of all administrative duties for both departments. Fire Chief Richard Brady is retiring after the next fiscal year, as required by Massachusetts General Law. Neither Mellis, nor Brady


was present at the hearing. Selectmen Jack Villamaino and Paul Federici were also absent because one had an “important personal matter” and another was working, Driscoll said.


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Mellis would spend the next year working with Brady on cross training and getting acclimated with his new responsibilities. Driscoll stress-ed that Mellis did not push for the position, but told the Selectmen when they approached him that he would do what the town asked of him. Deputy Fire Chief Stephen


Rybacki would take over fire operations, which include acting as the chief decision maker at an emergency scene.


Driscoll told those in attendance that the proposal was being brought forward because it was an opportunity for the town to save money while still improving upon public safety in the community.


“Our job as Board of Selectmen is to come up with new, innovative ideas that add improved service to the town, but also are f iscally responsible,” Driscoll said. “The idea of combining the police and fire chief positions is not a new one, but it was my idea to bring it to this town.”


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