Home » Procedure for hiring Farmington fire rescue chief debated before board – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

Procedure for hiring Farmington fire rescue chief debated before board – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

by Arifa Rana

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Town manager to decide whether to choose from in-house or follow traditional search.
FARMINGTON — Town Manager Christian Waller will consider whether to promote a member of the Fire Rescue Department to fire rescue chief or advertise the position and form a search committee to make a recommendation.
The issue of whether to search in-house or follow the policy of soliciting applications from a wider pool beyond the department was debated at Tuesday night’s selectmen meeting.
In the past, a department head opening has been advertised, a hiring committee formed and a scoring system developed, Waller said.
“So, the decision is we are going to open it up for all applicants?” Selectman and firefighter Stephan Bunker asked. “I am probably too close to the process, I am in favor of the shorter route.”
Tim D. Hardy was named interim fire rescue chief Dec. 2, 2021, following the the resignation of Terry Bell on Nov. 30.
“I think promoting from within is fantastic, especially when there is a qualified candidate,” Waller said. “I have every faith in interim Chief Hardy but where we did that with my position and the police chief it would be prudent to keep that going forward to avoid any potential concerns about favoritism.”

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Take it on a case-by-case basis, Deputy Chief S. Clyde Ross said. There are exceptions in every situation, he added.
“I think in all fairness after six months this has gone on long enough, has caused a stir within the department,” Ross said. “You have a qualified person in-house. I hope you give due consideration to that person prior to going nationwide, so to speak. I know no specific reason not to look in-house.”
“I have to agree,” resident Dennis O’Neil said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing an in-house search first. Give employees a chance to move up, to be motivated to stay as opposed to immediately assuming there is some better candidate out there. There is no reason you can’t go out to search if you don’t find a qualified in-house candidate.
“Some departments are small enough you don’t have that (candidate), some may not have the qualifications to move up,” O’Neil said. “This isn’t nepotism to do something in-house for qualified long-term employees.”
This isn’t nepotism, just following the standard that has been set, Board of Selectmen Chairman Matthew Smith said.
“I would remind everybody, at the end of the day it is the town manager’s choice not the board’s,” Smith said. “(The town manager) is in charge of personnel.”

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Captain and former Chief Terry Bell said in his opinion a search would be a waste of time and advertising dollars.
Hardy is well respected, known throughout the State of Maine Fire Service, Bell said. “He could go somewhere else.”
“I was totally in favor of what you did with the Police Department, I’m not thinking it is OK this time,” resident Judith Murphy said. “I feel we have the best candidate possible in-house. I do not support this search at all.”
Hardy is great to work with, John Moore said. “If you are worried about staff morale … this is a way to just nail this thing down.”
“I have to agree with my fellow citizens,” Selectman Scott Landry said.
“I have heard you want to keep employees here, people are finding better paying jobs and leaving,” Kyla Morgan said. If an in-house candidate is rejected, will that affect morale, open up more positions in the long run? she asked.

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In-house candidates not selected in other searches might have issue with the same policy not being followed, Ryan Morgan said.
Landry tried to bring a motion for an in-house search first.
Smith said it can’t be done because the town manager controls personnel hiring.
Waller said he would take people’s opinions under advisement.
In other business, the board approved the almost $1.15 million Sewer Department budget for 2022. It is $28,024 less than originally proposed. A $23,000 discrepancy was found and $5,000 was eliminated from retirement. The new budget is $94,845 more than the current budget.
A rate of $39.90 for a minimum of 500 cubic feet and $7.98 per cubic foot thereafter was also approved. It is the same rate as the past two years.
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