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Chambersburg still seeks new chief of emergency services

January 26, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Former Chambersburg Emergency Services Chief John Vanlandingham resigned in November 2005, and although a selection process is under way, it likely will be several more months before his successor is chosen.

Last year, a selection committee narrowed the field from about 90 applicants to six finalists, who went through an assessment process in July, Assistant Borough Manager David Finch said. He served on the committee, along with Mayor John Redding, three members of borough council and a former Mount Lebanon, Pa., fire chief serving as a consultant.

"The assessment center put them through a series of tests and drills and problems that they had to solve" while testing their leadership and technical skills, Borough Council President William McLaughlin said.

Of the two front-runners who emerged, the council eventually decided not to extend an offer to one, and the other "was no longer interested," McLaughlin said.

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"Today, we're truly at the point where we're only looking at one person," Boroough Manager Eric Oyer said Thursday. Even if a decision was made in the very near future, however, he said it could be three or four months before someone is named to head the fire department and ambulance service.

Along with the additional testing, the person chosen would have to give "reasonable notice" at his or her current job and then move to the area, Oyer said.

"The whole process has taken much more time than we'd like, but at the same time, we're doing much more testing than we ever have before," Oyer said.

In the meantime, the duties of running the department have fallen to Assistant Emergency Services Chief William Dubbs, who has been acting chief since Vanlandingham resigned.

Whomever is chosen will oversee the borough's second biggest department in terms of general fund expenditures with a 2007 budget of $2.8 million. The budget also includes funding for three new firefighter positions.

McLaughlin said Oyer's recommendation to the council was not to hire the three firefighters until the emergency services chief was on board.

According to the borough salary schedule, the person hired as chief would be paid somewhere between about $61,000 and $80,000 per year.

"From my point of view, it's imperative we hire the right person to run the Emergency Services Department," McLaughlin said. The borough has had four chiefs during his 15 years on council and now is looking for a fifth, he said.

"For one reason or another, we've had decidedly mixed results" in the position, McLaughlin said.

"We can't afford to go through the process and wind up with the wrong person at this juncture," he said.

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