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TELL US: Would You Support the 'Strong Chief' Law Being Rescinded?

The Board of Selectmen has discussed putting an article before the Town Meeting members on rescinding the 'Strong Chief' statute - what do you think?

At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, the Board discussed bringing an article to the Town Meeting on Nov. 15 to rescind the "strong chief" statute in Norwood.

The "strong chief" law in Massachusetts gives the fire chief sole control over hiring and firing in a department, as well as all fire department operations. According to the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 48, Section 42:

Towns accepting the provisions of this section... may establish a fire department to be under the control of an officer to be known as the chief of the fire department.... He shall have full and absolute authority in the administration of the department, shall make all rules and regulations for its operation, shall report to the selectmen from time to time as they may require, and shall annually report to the town the condition of the department with his recommendations thereon....

If rescinded, Town Manager John Carroll would become the direct supervisor of the Norwood Fire Chief, under Section 42A.

Last week the Board of Selectmen announced an agreement with Norwood Fire Chief Michael Howard that places him on Inactive Status pending his separation from employment with the town. Deputy Chief Ronald Maggio will serve as acting chief until the town decides on further action.

Twice before this proposal has been brought to Town Meeting, and it failed both times.

Whether you are a Town Meeting member or not, we want to know: Would you support the rescission of the "strong chief" statute in Norwood?

Pete Downing October 31, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I support the "strong chief" law because the Fire Chief should have the ability to run his department as he/she sees fit with direction from the town. Personally, I feel our town manager has too much on is plate and it does not make sense! It would also monopolize two core departments under him: the police department and the fire department. Now... let's be clear; I am sure our current chief is a great person, but he did not do the chief position justice in regards to finance. We cannot judge him, but rather judge the Selectmen of the town! The "strong chief" law states: "The chief shall be appointed by the selectmen." If we are to blame anyone for the state we are in, blame the Selectmen/woman. Indirectly it is our fault because we voted them into office! Let' also remember, in every job, it is easier to hire than fire. The "strong chief" law states: "He may be removed for cause by the selectmen at any time after a hearing." Again... we voted for them. In regards to finance, the "strong chief" clearly states: - "He shall purchase subject to the approval of the selectmen" - "In the expenditure of money the chief shall be subject to such further limitations as the town may from time to time prescribe." For any Town Meeting Member who glazes over the budget requests from the fire department... we are to blame! Net, net... giving the town manager full control of our fire department would take the power from us, the people of Norwood.
Pete Downing October 31, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Let's also remember the Schools, the Police Department and the Fire Department quality affect out town as well, especially with housing values and such! The Schools are increasing in quality over the last few years. Test scores seem to be rising and the school board is doing a great job in my opinion. The police department is not very desirable based on conversations with local policemen. Sure our new police chief is doing a great job at cleaning up the streets of Norwood, but a lot of the younger policemen/women you see around Norwood are essentially using Norwood as a step to another department. Why? Because the department reports to the town manager based on my research. So salaries are lower than surrounding towns and the the incentive to stay a Norwood policeman/woman is just not there! Norwood Police Department is a very transient place! Don't get me wrong, the policemen/women who serve are great and protect our town but we want to know they are here for the long-haul making Norwood their home and truly defining community policing! Do we want that for Norwood Fire Department as well? Rescission of the "strong chief" law would cause the same thing. A lot of our firemen/women would most likely transfer out and Norwood would become less desirable to work. Something to ponder as well!
Pete Downing October 31, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Mr Ragman: You could change that... run for Norwood Town Meeting. I did... I am not town employee or town employee's family member. I am also not a townie. I ran and got elected and I speak up!
Pete Downing October 31, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Some final thoughts: - Maybe town meeting should push to a ballot question for April? Seems petty, but a lot of people complain that Town Meeting Members have their own agendas or are a town employee or town employee's family member. I am a Town Meeting Member and I don't have an agenda and I am not a town employee or town employee's family member. Thoughts? - The search for the next chief should be overseen by a search committee (which I believe most searches are) and not just the town selectmen. We should also look from within our fire department for a valid candidate as well.
Trish Monahan November 15, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I feel we should absolutely keep the strong chief law. I feel that a fire department should be run by a person who is trained in firefighting, fire prevention, knows what to look for in new recruits and is not made to feel political pressure from a town official to change any decisions he/she feels necessary. Perhaps it's time to look into changing the police department so they are also led by a strong chief. Also, I hope this is the last time this issue is brought forth. It seems like it keeps being brought up even though it's been decided in the past. Move the question!

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