Council divided over civil status of EMS chief

April 25, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council this week was split over a proposed ordinance governing the Emergency Services Department, particularly over the issue of whether the chief and assistant chief can be civil service employees.

The council voted 6-4 Monday night to advertise a proposed ordinance, which replaces an earlier ordinance and codifies some policies, including a policy that the chief and assistant chief shall not be civil service employees. Borough Manager Eric Oyer told the council that is a policy the borough has followed for about a dozen years.

Councilwoman Elaine Swartz questioned that part of the ordinance, saying that could prevent qualified candidates from being considered for the post. The borough has been without an emergency services chief since John Vanlandingham resigned in November 2005. Assistant Chief William Dubbs is acting in that capacity.

Affording civil service status to the chief and assistant chief would make it difficult to fire them, solicitor Thomas Finucane said, "considering the problems we've had with certain individuals."


"The last two we had in that position if they were civil service they might still be with us," Councilman Robert Wareham said.

The ordinance also states that the chief shall be under the direction of the borough manager, another policy that has been in effect for years, Oyer said.

"Are we going to have a fire chief who is allowed to talk to us?" asked Councilwoman Sharon Bigler. "Is the fire chief going to be allowed to go to the council, or is he going to be told to shut up?"

"Unless we adopt this, hiring a chief is putting the cart before the horse," Council President William McLaughlin said. The ordinance will define a chain of command for the department, he said.

McLaughlin, Wareham and council members Mary Beth Shank, Heath Talhelm, Janet Lukic and Glenn Manns voted to advertise the ordinance. Bigler, Swartz and council members Ruth Harbaugh and Allen Coffman voted against the motion.

The ordinance would also define the department as being a combined department of paid and volunteer firefighters, and set requirements for department membership as determined by the chief and borough manager. Volunteers would also have to be members of the five chartered volunteer fire companies in the borough, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also increases the number of paid positions from 18 to 24. Oyer said the 2007 budget includes funding for three new positions and three more are expected to be added in the 2009 budget, he said.

In addition to the chief and assistant chief, those positions would include up to three captains and three lieutenants, the proposed ordinance states.

The Herald-Mail Articles