Township Fire Board Moves Forward To Hire New Chief
Following the recent resignation of the embattled former fire chief Brian Florey, the Saugatuck Township Fire District (STFD) Board is moving forward and commencing the process of searching for a new chief.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the STFD board accepted Florey’s resignation then discussed how to go about hiring a new chief, what should be included in the fire chief’s job description and establishing a hiring committee.
“Everyone has been stepping up,” said Saugatuck Township Deputy Fire Chief Dane Schreckengust, who is acting as chief of the department until the district finds Florey’s replacement.
For some expert advice and guidance in the hiring process, the fire board will be soliciting the professional assistance of Dave Petersen and Dave Purchase, qualified and experienced instructors from the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs.
“I suggest we contract with them (Petersen and Purchase) so that the job search and hiring is done correctly and speedily and we get the right person this time,” said Acting Fire Board Chair Jane Verplank.
The last part of her statement referenced Florey’s resignation following a two-month internal investigation that uncovered numerous revelations of financial, operational and potential legal problems within the department, all linked to Florey.
“It’s smart to bring in someone that knows what they are doing,” said STFD Board Member Scott Phelps about the hiring process.
“I would like the process to be really impartial,” said Verplank, to which STFD Board Member Eric Beckman said, “And that could be an issue in a small town.”
Despite not listing the job availability in any publication thus far, board members said they’ve received a number of applications from individuals immediately following the announcement of Florey’s departure.
Those applicants are from places as far away as Ann Arbor and the state of Illinois, they said.
After some discussion, the board determined it would not advertise the job in newspapers because it was too expensive and was not necessary.
Plenty of qualified candidates, the board noted, would find the vacancy in the job listings of such state agencies as the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs, the Michigan Township Association and the Michigan Municipal League.
Of a salary range, the board determined a $50,000-to-$60,000-per-year figure, based on qualifications, would be appropriate for the size of the fire department and the community it serves (the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas and Saugatuck Township).
Florey’s salary when he began in 2011 started at $52,000 and ended at $54,000.
Among the number of responsibilities the new chief will have to tackle right of way - and which the board is postponing taking action on until the new hire is in place - are establishing policies and procedures, which according to fire department officials themselves, are outdated and “diluted;” select new department officers; and decide if the department should keep and maintain a dive team as part of its water rescue operation.
Commenting on former Fire Chief Florey’s resignation, Phelps said, “Brian needed to be terminated.”
Phelps added that he alone spoke with Florey about the uncovered problems. “When he asked me, ‘What do you suggest I do?,’ I told him, ‘The best thing for you to do is to resign now and save us the trouble by helping us a little bit,’” said Phelps.
“He understood. It was a peaceful separation.”