After months of looking near and far for a new chief of the Scotia Village Fire Department, village officials were told that the position will have to be awarded to a current village firefighter.
The Schenectady County Civil Service Commission ruled recently that the village must choose a new chief from within the department. According to village officials, the commission’s decision was based on the fact that there are a number of candidates within the department who are qualified to fill former Chief Richard Kasko’s position.
That ruling was good news to Ken Almy, president of the Scotia Permanent Fireman’s Association.
We are confident that one of the people chosen from the department will be able to do the job, said Almy.
The chief’s job has been open since June, when Kasko left to take a job in the private sector. He had been with the department since 2004, and had moved to the area from Texas, where he was chief of a volunteer fire department. Capt. Charles Keller has been filling in as interim chief since his departure.
Deputy Mayor Joe Rizzo said that the village is hopeful that once a new chief is named, the department can again be fully staffed with a three-man shift, also known as the fire department’s 12-man model.
`When we are fully staffed, there is a captain, a lieutenant, a firefighter and the chief on duty,` said Rizzo. `This model provides the most adequate coverage for the safety of our residents.`
Rizzo said that the village is conducting interviews and hopes to soon make a selection. He said the village has had a lot of success in the past promoting from within the department, and he hopes to see Keller take the test for the position because he believes Keller has been running the department efficiently.
Rizzo also said promoting from within the ranks gives the firefighters something to strive for.
`When you show the younger firefighters that there is room to grow, it gives them motivation. I am all for promoting from within if you have people who meet and exceed the qualification,` said Rizzo.
In the past, there had been some discussion among members of the village Board of Trustees over whether to hire a chief from within the department or not, with Trustee Armon Benny suggesting an outsider could turn a fresh eye on the staffing and overtime issues that have plagued the department in recent years.
`I believe we have fully capable and good firefighters who can run the fire scene,` Benny said. `However, I think that managing a department is a different story. A lot of times you are working with a million dollar union contract, and you need to be able to see things from a different side. It’s a question of being able to manage, and sometimes an outsider can see things someone who has been in the department cannot.`
Benny, who is up for re-election in November, said he feels that any additional increases in the fire department budget will further burden residents financially.
`Our residents are in a position where they can no longer afford another increase in taxes,` said Benny. `We need someone who can come in with the skills to manage a budget.`
The Board of Trustees was scheduled to discuss the issue further at its Wednesday, Oct. 8, meeting. “