18 March, 1987
Panel studying options on Fire chief’s term
By Marjorie Snyder
A proposal to extend the Princeton Fire Chief’s one-year term to two years is “back to the drawing board” following a Board of Engineers meeting Wednesday. Although members of the joint Princeton Fire Department agree the chief should serve two years rather than one, “the big problem is how to do it,” said Fire Chief Kenneth Rendall.
“We’re back to the drawing board,” Chief Kendall said Thursday. “We tried to sit down and figure if there could be some compromise.”
At present, the chief is elected by the entire 120-member department at the conclusion of each year. The traditional rotation system allows the Deputy Chief to immediately advance to Department Chief, explained Chief Rendall.Yet members disagree about whether to keep the rotation process or only apply it to the election of deputy chief.
The five-member committee of the Board of Engineers is presently studying various options for the fire chief term and expects to briefly discuss these proposals on March 25.
The board consists of 12 firefighters, four from each of the three fire companies: Engine Co. No. 1 on Chestnut Street, Engine Co. No. 3 on Chambers Street and Hook & Ladder & Chemical Co. No. 1 on North Harrison Street. In addition, the Princeton Borough and Township Fire Commissioners, the Captain’ of the Fire Police and a past fire chief also serve on the board, but do not vote.
All 120 firefighters would vote on the chief’s term if such a proposal were finalized, according to Chief Rendall.
Discussion of a lengthier chief s term stems from the Shand Report, a fire consultant’s study performed for the Princetons in 1985. In the report, Thomas Shand of Syracuse, N.Y. recommended a two-year fire chief term to allow for the accomplishment of programs. The last few months are spent as a ‘lame duck administrator,” preparing the fire department budget for the next year, the report noted.
Yet by doubling the chiefs term, the time until a firefighter can become fire chief is also twice as long, explained Chief Rendall. Currently, a firefighter must wait 12 years to become chief. But with the two-year chief term, the serving time would double to 24 years, he said.
Chief Rendall said 12 years is a “good time frame,” but 24 years is too long since the main goal of most firefighters is a 25-year service badge.