Fire chief must be full time

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Mountain Home City Council is in the process of debating how -- and who -- to replace retired Fire Chief Phil Gridley.

Phil retired this spring. He'd given better than a year of advance warning. Somehow, the city council still can't figure out what it wants to do, or who it wants to give the job to. The council appears to have abandoned its national search for a replacement, meaning the next fire chief is likely to be someone on the force now. There's a small number of firemen there who have the training, experience, administrative skills and force of personality to be a good fire chief.

A committee has been formed to help narrow all the candidates down to a small number that the mayor will recommend to the council. There are believed to be at least two good, leading candidates -- Alan Roberts and Alan Bermensolo.

Bermensolo is currently serving as the interim part-time fire chief until the council can make up its mind what to do.

Either of the two men we mentioned above can do the job and do it well. But hidden in the ongoing debate within city hall is whether or not the fire chief should be a full-time position, or if it should fall back on being a part-time position.

This paper advocated at the time Phil was hired, well over a decade ago, that the city had grown to the point that it needed a full-time chief. A full-time chief can do more inspections, outreach, basic maintenance of equipment (later, the council decided the chief needed a full-time employee to help him with that work), and most importantly, earn the certifications necessary to conduct top-quality training.

Phil took a very good volunteer fire department and turned it into one we'd stack up against any department --volunteer or full time -- anywhere in the state. These guys (and woman) are very, very good. The residents of this town enjoy a fire rating that simply can't get any better unless we had a completely full-time fire department. That rating keeps your insurance costs down. A full-time fire chief did all that.

If it was necessary, during the days of Mayor Don Etter, to have a full-time fire chief then, it is even more necessary now that the size of this town has nearly doubled. And it won't be getting smaller. To regress to a part-time chief, even one who might put in a lot more hours than called for, would be a strategic error of major proportions on the part of the city council. They shouldn't even consider it.

Whomever they choose, the appointment MUST be to a full-time position.

-- Kelly Everitt