RUMFORD – Selectmen will decide whether to combine the fire and police chiefs jobs into one, known as director of public safety, after a special workshop scheduled for April 3.

The action followed a presentation by Town Manager Jim Doar during a budget workshop with selectmen Tuesday night where he outlined how the two departments could function with a common administrator.

“This would move us in a regionalization direction,” he said. “We could try it as a one year interim, and if it works, fantastic.”

Doar said earlier in the week that he had been thinking about the position for some time. When fire Chief John Woulfe announced his resignation effective April 6 last week, the idea was proposed to police Chief Stacy Carter, who would likely be appointed as public safety director.

Doar said a savings of $40,000 would be realized with one person serving as administrator for both departments. That savings includes hiring a part-time administrative assistant and adding some funds to the police department lieutenant’s salary because he would pick up some of the duties of the chief.

If the board approves and Carter takes the position, it wouldn’t be the first time he took on a role besides that of police chief. He served as interim town manager for several months in 2007 when former Town Manager Steve Eldridge left.

Selectman Frank DiConzo said other options for filling the fire chief’s position should be researched.

“There are other alternatives that could save even more money,” he said.

Suggestions ranged from establishing an all volunteer fire department to creating a regional fire chief or regional public safety administrator for several area towns.

Doar, however, believes that creating the public safety position here could be a first step toward a regional position that could eventually include emergency medical service, too.

“Having a combination chief would make it one less hurdle. And if it’s going to work, Chief Carter is the one to do it,” he said.

Carter said five or six towns in the state already have similar public safety positions. He said he knows little about firefighting, but would rely on the fire department’s deputy chiefs while learning. His primary role would be that of budget and policy administrator.

At the 5 p.m. April 3 workshop, selectmen will look at options and likely decide whether to try combining the positions, advertise for a fire chief, or promote a firefighter from within the department during their regular 7 p.m. selectmen’s meeting.

Doar said he will appoint one of the two deputy fire chiefs to serve as interim fire chief until a decision has been made or a new chief is hired.


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