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Fire Chief Position Filled for Now

Deputy Fire Chief Paul Schleicher appointed to the post.

Selectmen approved a provisional Fire Chief Thursday, to fill in after current Chief Richard Gomes retires at the end of July.

Deputy Fire Chief Paul Schleicher was appointed to the post, and will take over the helm on July 28. The board acted immediately on receiving the nomination from Gomes, so there would be no vacancy in that important position while a permanent replacement is secured.

Board members and Town Manager Michael Yunits expressed extreme frustration that they had not yet received the results from the March civil service exam. Two people took the exam, one of them Schleicher and the other unknown, and when the scores are finally received, the board will decide whether to promote the new Chief from within the department or open the search to other candidates outside the community.

"This has to be red tape," said board Chairman Brad Bramwell of the long delay.

"Either that or someone is challenging it," commented Yunits.

Robert Kimball was clearly upset by the lack of response from the civil service office.

"The civil service system is archaic and outdated," he said. "The process gets dragged in the mud by bureaucratic appointees - we could be making this appointment tonight."

The board also approved the advancement of firefighter and emergency medical services director Shawn Simmons to the position of Fire Captain, but said they were fortunate to be able to have a talented and capable person for that job, because they only had one candidate to choose from.

Simmons had been hired in 1998, and is on the Bristol County rescue team and is a Massachusetts Fire Academy instructor. He is now attending Bridgewater State University. But he was the only candidate to take the qualifying civil service exam.

He will replace retiring Captain Al Briand, who is leaving the department July 16 after 30 years.

Kimball was no less emphatic objecting to the civil service procedures in this appointment.

"Maybe we should consider looking outside," he said of similar appointments in the future. "The civil service exam process should be thrown out. I think if a police or fire officer wants to be promoted we should have at least four people who want to take the test."

Kimball called for a proactive plan to develop both the police and fire departments. "We all have to take the blame for this," he said. "We should not be put in a position by civil service that we have one candidate. We're not doing ourselves any favors... We need to change our mind set."

"I completely agree," said member Tim Giblin. "It's important to have options to choose from." Giblin said the board should also consider the addition of both auxiliary police and call firefighters to augment the public safety departments.

Bramwell added he understood where both Kimball and Giblin were coming from, and added it could be important to survey the "rank and file" members of both departments to see if there is something that is holding officers back from seeking promotion through the civil service exam process.

"Why aren't they interested?" Bramwell asked, saying he was interested in the "background and logical thinking of potential candidates who don't take advantage of the opportunity."

The board voted to support Kimball's suggestion that Yunits begin the process of assembling a developmental plan for town departments, beginning with public safety.

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