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Borough looks for assist in search for new chief

April 11, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council later this month will consider hiring a consultant and a retired fire chief to assist in its search for a new emergency services chief.

"We've had utter failure and we need to get it right this time," Council President William McLaughlin said Monday of the borough's difficulties in hiring and retaining an emergency services chief during the past 12 years. During the time, McLaughlin said the borough has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries "for people not able to perform the job the way we wanted."

Emergency Services Chief John Vanlandingham, who headed both the fire department and ambulance service, resigned in November after less than two years on the job. Assistant Emergency Services Chief William Dubbs, who was Vanlandingham's predecessor, has been the acting chief since that time.

"I want another chief that will be here 10, 15, 20 years," McLaughlin said. Since the retirement of Chief William Sheppard in the mid-1990s, the borough has had three emergency services chiefs, McLaughlin said,

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Monday, the council considered hiring Municipal Resources of Pennsylvania, a Harrisburg, Pa., consulting firm, to advise the borough on hiring a new chief at a cost of $11,850, plus up to $1,800 in expenses. Assistant Borough Manager David Finch said the company would work with the council, mayor and borough management to develop an "ideal candidate profile" to identify the best candidates and an "assessment center," essentially a series of practical problem-solving exercises in various aspects of the position.

Councilwoman Elaine Swartz suggested Finch contact the company and other municipalities that have used the same process to find how well it has worked with those communities.

The administration is also recommending the hiring of Steven Darcangelo, the retired fire chief of Mount Lebanon, Pa., to work with the borough in the selection process at a cost not to exceed $2,500. Finch said Mount Lebanon's fire department is similar in size and budget to Chambersburg's and also combines both paid and volunteer firefighters.

"For the cost to the borough of hiring the wrong chief, $2,500 for technical assistance is a drop in the bucket," said Councilman Glenn Manns.

As of last week, about 35 people had submitted applications for the position, Finch said. The period for applicants to send in resumes ends at the end of April, he said.

A recommendation for a new chief could come in May or June, Finch said.

The council agreed to hire Municipal Resources of Pennsylvania for a limited study of the borough police department. In a letter to the council Mayor John Redding asked that the firm be hired to look at issues including overtime and scheduling in the department, which Borough Manager Eric Oyer said has 31 full-time officers including Chief Michael DeFrank, and about 10 part-time officers.

Oyer said the goal of the study is to achieve cost reductions without reducing levels of service.

Oyer said the borough spent about $198,000 in gross overtime last year, although the borough was reimbursed for about half that cost by the Chambersburg Area School District, Chambersburg Mall and the Franklin County Housing Authority for contracted police services.

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