Commission found the right man for the job

THE POLICE AND FIRE Commission made the right call for a new fire chief. It was not an easy task finding someone to succeed the retired Ron Nicolaus to head the fire department, but Dennis Fellows, the commission’s choice, should be up to the challenge.

With a field of 18 applicants to choose from, the commission opted to stay in-house with its selection, a policy it has followed successfully many times in the past for the both the fire and the police departments. Fellows has been a city of Plymouth firefighter for 33 years. Prior to his appointment by the commission, he was most recently assistant chief of emergency medical services and rescue operations.

Along with fellow Assistant Chief Rory Beebe, Fellows has been overseeing department operations since Nicolaus retired on the first of the year.

Many of the applicants from outside the department were highly qualified and any of them would have made an excellent fire chief for the city.

But there is an inherent advantage for anyone who is already a member of the department, especially someone who has spent more than three decades in the department and has worked his way up through the ranks, as Fellows has.

The city has established a new framework that places the fire department under a new director of public safety position – currently held by Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck – that should help streamline operations and ensure coordination and cooperation in a time when ensuring public safety more often than not involves a number of agencies and departments.

Nicolaus leaves behind a record of service to the city that may never again be matched. He was a department member for 51 years and served an unparalleled 34 years as fire chief. He became the city’s first full-time paid fire chief in 1997 and in that role brought the department and the protection it provided to the highest level of dedication and professionalism. He truly made his city a better and safer place.

The process to replace him, despite some concerns in some quarters at some points, has worked well and for the benefit of the city. The Police and Fire Commission and city officials deserve credit for doing right by the city and the fire department.

There were concerns raised as well by the Plymouth Town Board, which contracts with the department to provide fire protection for their residents.

Supervisors there wondered about what they perceived as a lack of input into the hiring process and other decisions by the Police and Fire Commission about the department.

By law, the town does not have a place at the table, as the fire department is a department of the city that provides fire protection service to the town by contract – a long-standing process that was reaffirmed by both the city and the town just recently.

Were it a joint fire department, the town could and should be represented on the commission, but as a city department there is, by law, no requirement for the town to be represented.

But that doesn’t mean they should not have a voice.

With new leadership in the department, this may be a good time for the city and the town to establish a way for the town to have a voice – perhaps by making provision for the town to have a nonvoting representative on the city’s Police and Fire Commission for any issues or items relating to the fire department.


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