Police chief will be head fire driver, too

LAKE PLACID – Lake Placid Police Chief Bill Moore will wear two hats for the next four months after being named head village fire driver at Monday night’s village board meeting.

Trustees approved Mayor Craig Randall’s appointment of Moore, but not before some board members raised concerns that the chief was being asked to take on too much responsibility. Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department leaders also questioned why a veteran fire driver was passed over for the appointment, and they pressed the board to hire another full-time driver to replace Brad Jaques, who recently stepped down as head fire driver.

Randall had initially appointed Moore to fill in as head fire driver for six months, paying him an additional $1,250 a month. The mayor said Moore would work with the village’s fire commissioners (Randall and Trustee Art Devlin) to oversee and evaluate the village’s fire drivers “and present some further recommendations as to how we go forward.”

But Trustee Scott Monroe, Moore’s predecessor as police chief, said he was leery of adding to Moore’s workload.

“Being chief of police is 40-hour job, and Brad has proven it’s a 40-hour job down at the fire department,” Monroe said. “We’re asking an awful lot of Chief Moore to try to run both places.”

Monroe suggested the arrangement be scaled back to four months, so “if (Moore) doesn’t like this, he has a chance to say he wants out.”

“We looked at four months, but that puts us right in the middle of summer,” Randall responded, “and it doesn’t provide adequate time for much to happen.”

Trustee Jason Leon also felt six months is too long, and he said he was concerned about village board members getting too involved in the department.

“I feel like there seems to be a movement from governance to management,” he said. “I don’t think people elected us to hands-on manage a department. They elected us to govern a village, and I think we’re crossing that line.”

Earlier in the meeting, Randall said the village had posted the head fire driver vacancy in early fall of last year. Five applications were received: two from current village employees and three from outside candidates.

The mayor said the applications were reviewed by the fire commissioners and Jaques, but he said he “could not get a recommendation, could not find a candidate in the group that actually fulfilled all the duties Brad has conducted so capably over the last several years.”

However, both Jaques and former Trustee Zay Curtis told the Enterprise Tuesday that wasn’t the case. They said they had recommended Matt Colby, a current driver, for the head driver post.

“At one of their administrative committee meetings (in December), Peter Holderied, Zay Curtis and I all sat right there and said Matt Colby was the only one out of that pile who could take on that job,” Jaques said. “We all said that to the mayor.”

“I believe that Matt deserved a chance at the job,” Curtis said. “That was something Craig and I disagreed on. I made the recommendation so many times, Craig got tired of looking at me.”

More recently, Jaques and Curtis also said the union that represents the drivers submitted a letter to the village, signed by each driver, which recommended Colby for the job.

Colby’s name did come up at Monday’s meeting, but only after several audience members asked why he hadn’t been considered for the appointment.

“We all have reservations about Matt, including Brad,” Holderied said.

John Fagan, the fire department’s captain, said Colby “might be tough to talk to across the table, but maybe you ought to be considering what he provides at a fire scene or to that department and the safety to the village as opposed to personality conflicts that may occur across the table.”

“I don’t know that anyone has conflicts with Matt,” Randall said.

The board ultimately voted 4-0 to approve Randall’s four-month appointment of Moore as head fire driver. Devlin was absent from the meeting.

Driver vacancy

Shortly thereafter, Randall proposed posting for a new driver to fill the vacancy left by Jaques’ departure. Leon quickly proposed an amendment to advertise for a full-time driver.

Holderied said he’d like to keep the option of a part-time position open, “because if you do the math, we don’t actually need a 40-hour person.” That comment drew a sharp rebuke from the firefighters in the audience.

“How do you know?” said one person. “Come crawl down a fire floor with me and tell me that,” Fagan said.

Randall said the department can run with four drivers instead of five. He said hiring two half-time drivers could be an option instead of a full-timer.

Torry Hoffman, the department’s new chief, said the responsibilities associated with the job require a full-time employee.

“My concern is that if you get rid of that last full-time driver and you don’t have the overlapping shifts, how are these guys expected to maintain that equipment while they’re answering for the fire department, for the ambulance, for the police department?” Hoffman said. “The village has come to depend on that service. We need a full-time driver.”

The board agreed to post for a full-time position in another 4-0 vote.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.