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Southampton reduces training requirement for fire chief job, 12 have applied already

The Select Board again reduced the requirements for the fire chief position, although they have already advertised the job and a dozen have applied.

Select Board Chairman Michael J. Phelan Jr. said the board decided at their March 26 meeting to change the level of EMS training required from intermediate to basic level “to attract a bigger pool of candidates.” Twelve people have applied so far, but their applications have not been reviewed.

He said the board members had discussed reducing the requirement months ago, when they were drafting the job description to advertise, but the change was never incorporated into the description.

Select Board member and Highway Superintendent Edward J. Cauley said Tuesday that he noticed the posting included the intermediate requirement and brought it to the Select Board’s attention.

“I thought we had already made those changes, I guess it was an oversight,” he said. “I think having the chief have basic training should be the requirement.”

Interim Fire Chief William B. Kaleta, who has said he would apply for the permanent position, is certified at the basic level and was ineligible to apply before the change. But Phelan said that fact had nothing to do with his decision to support the amendment.

Easthampton Fire Chief David A. Mottor, who is also certified at the basic level, said he thinks it is “kind of unusual” to require a chief to be trained at an intermediate level since they are often not the ones staffing ambulances.

In fact, no training institutions in the state offer intermediate level training, said Anne Roach, media relations manager for the state Department of Public Health. This is due to the state phasing the certification out to make its standards agree with the national standards.

This is the third time in four months that the Select Board has opted to lower requirements when seeking candidates for two positions: fire chief and town administrator.

In December, they voted to change a four-year degree requirement to a recommendation before advertising the town administrator job. The vote removed the only educational requirement and also made it possible for Interim Town Administrator Regina Shea-Sullivan to apply for the position, which she said she was interested in.

An appointed screening committee is now reviewing 19 applicants for that job and will recommend candidates to the Select Board.

The board also removed the four-year degree requirement from the fire chief job description in February before advertising it. The application period was originally due to close on April 7, but Shea-Sullivan said the town will extend it by 14 days to April 21 because of the change.

The job description posted on the town’s website was still not changed Tuesday afternoon.

— REBECCA EVERETT

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