PEPPERELL -- Reconfiguration of the Fire Department's leadership could be in the near future.
At their last meeting, selectmen heard from members of the Board of Fire Engineers, a four-member body that governs the Fire Department. The Fire Engineers reopened discussion on the issue of moving to a strong chief around fall Town Meeting last year, but, took it off the warrant before it went to the floor.
"We think taking it off of the warrant at last spring's Town Meeting was a good move, it is still fresh in the firefighter's minds," Fire Engineer Milton Blood said. "There is still a little hesitation around the idea."
For more than 150 years the Pepperell Fire Department has been run by the BFE. The board can have up to 12 members on it, all of whom are appointed by the Selectmen. Board members then elect a chief fire engineer.
In 2007, an article to move to a strong chief was defeated on town meeting floor. In March of 2011, a three-member BFE went to selectmen to propose a strong chief again, but proposal was also defeated and the BFE was expanded to five members.
Currently, according to Fire Chief Toby Tyler, the board is still collecting data on the best way to implement the strong chief measure again. Blood says he has been meeting with fire companies to discuss the issue.
"It is important keeping everyone fully informed and showing them how they compare," Blood said. "When we move with it, we want to have positive feedback from the
"Information is key."
At each of those discussions, no one has been 100 percent against it, and no one is looking to have it implemented immediately, according to Blood. At first, the Board of Fire Engineers was prjecting to have something ready for fall Town Meeting in October, but he said because of the amount of information they have to present, spring 2013 might be a better time to vote it.
The option of staying with the board, said Blood, might be the best route.
Selectmen Joseph Sergi and Stephen Themelis said they agreed that the decision must come from the ranks of the department as well as the fire engineers.
Sergi said he was advocating for the strong chief because it creates more accountability with the leadership of the Fire Department, but he said he understands the issue is for the firefighters to decide on.
"We wouldn't want to force it on them, Ideally we letting them control the process," he said. "Part of the problem is there is not always accountability, the leadership can change quickly making for a lot of unknowns and uncertainties."
Even a turnover in the selectmen can cause those changes, Sergi explained. Also a member of the Charter Commission, he said that group is considering Fire Department leadership in their discussion of town government.