DeWitt: Chief position reviewed

The DeWitt Board of Fire Commissioners recently called together a six-person team to review Chief Gary MacLachan's job duties. This is the first time his responsibilities are being examined since the fire commission disclosed plans to eliminate the position of a paid fire chief for a volunteer. The change would take place after seven-year incumbent MacLachlan retires in September.

The committee, which includes MacLachlan, met last week to shape a report and make a recommendation to the board for its March 11 meeting at which Commissioner Brian Schultz was absent. Schultz is among two other commissioners, Andy Worden and Jim Conlon, who supports a paid fire chief over a volunteer. MacLachlan said, out of five commissioners, it appears a fourth one may also be "back on board."

Controversy first ensued when the board announced its plans at its Dec. 27 meeting. Neither MacLachlan nor his firefighters were asked their opinions in the matter leading up to the decision.

Main concerns among firefighters include consistency -- having someone to turn to during regular work hours -- and the time involved in being a fire chief. Schultz said MacLachlan works a minimum of 40 to 50 hours per week.

"Show me a volunteer who has that kind of time," he said in an interview last month.

Most volunteers' availability is in the evenings and over the weekends, leaving daytime hours unsupervised.

If the board decides to keep status quo, involving the public may not be necessary. Otherwise, a vote may be in order.

The DeWitt Fire Department is the third busiest department in Onondaga County with the largest number of paid staff. It's also the only one with a paid career chief.

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