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September 3, 2008 - 7:45am

News roundup: City gets new fire chief

posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, fire department.

WBTA's Dan Fischer broke the story: the city of Batavia has a new fire chief. Thomas Dillon was appointed to the position Tuesday morning. Dillon has been retired from the city of Rochester Fire Department for eight years. He was a deputy fire chief there.

City Manager Jason Molino told Fischer that Dillon was picked among a candidate pool of 15, and he will start work on September 17 at a salary of $75,192. Molino also spoke of Dillon's experience at a larger department.

Mark Potwora
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What happened to the idea of combining the police chief and fire chief into one job.Who's been doing the job since the other chief retired.Why don't we promote from with in.Will the new chief be moving to Batavia.Seems like he is already getting a pension.Why wouldn't you at least hire someone in our fire dept.Im sure they could use the money more than this guy..so much for helping out our own .....
Charlie Mallow
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That would require a change to our charter. That idea is one of the ideas being worked on by our charter Commission. Maybe John Roach could give us an update. I don’t believe anyone applied internally; there was a committee of area people who worked on that hire. It is also my understanding that the new chief is moving to Batavia.
Howard B. Owens
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Charlie, is the idea of changing the charter active enough that it makes more sense to hire a retired chief rather than somebody younger who might expect to stay in the job for several years? We would ask Jason these sorts of questions, but he's hiding from us.
Charlie Mallow
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It’s my understanding that the Chief position is an interim position until an exam is held later next year. Everyone needs to remember the budget message that was given earlier in the year by Jason, the state of the city address I gave and the message from our auditors. All of these things make it VERY clear we as a city cannot continue on the same path. We as a city are NOT past the financial problems. The city is at a turning point, expect CHANGE.
Howard B. Owens
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Cost savings measures are good. The interim position thing is fine, but presumably anybody the city would hire would be with the expectation that the interim phase would pass and the position would become permanent. With that in mind, it seems a worthy to question to ask -- why a retired guy? Is there something else going on? And so based on your response, Charlie, should we (meaning not just mean, but readers of The Batavian) assume, or read into your statement, that a single public safety department head position is in the works? That the charter could be changed?
Charlie Mallow
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There are no secret plans in the works. In order to implement a public safety department head several very public things would have to occur. 1.The charter commission would have to agree to make the changes necessary to our charter. 2.Council would have to vote to approve the findings of the charter commission and place it on the ballot. 3.The voters of this city would have to approve the charter commission’s recommendations. 4.Our city manger would have to be able to come up with specific details for the new position and the position consolidation. 5.Council would have to vote to enact those changes. None of these things are easy to do but, at no time in our history has there been more on the line and a council more willing to make the changes necessary. The media might focus on stupid things like mall signs and leave out all the real things being done but, the facts show this council is very willing to make the changes necessary to bring the city back from our financial crisis.
Mark Potwora
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Howard i hope you can look into this more for us all..You are good at getting the facts out..also thanks Charlie for responding on here so fast.Has the Daily News asked for your thoughts on the fire chiefs hiring at this point in our quest to shrink the size of the city of Batavia's payroll...Also will this person have to live in the city.I do agree that a public safety officer is the way to go....
Philip Anselmo
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Mark, the new chief is moving his family from Geneseo to Batavia. Yes.
Howard B. Owens
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Charlie, who focused on mall signs? That seemed to come from the council. As for us, we kept saying, "Mr. Mallow, tear down that mall!" Kind of a bigger -- and more important issue -- than the sign. We've said all along the mall sign is pretty trivial compared to the larger issue of what to do with the "eyesore" of a mall. The media wouldn't even know about the sign if it hadn't been brought up by council members. The only thing that made the sign issue interesting was council members bickering of it. Just saying. And nobody is suggesting there's a secret plan -- just asking if that was a factor in this particular hire? That said, it's great to have you spell out for readers what the process will be, should it go forward. Thank you for that.
Daniel Jones
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I would imagine that the main factor in the hire would be the incoming Chief's experience, being Deputy Chief in a large department such as the Rochester Fire Department. As for a consolidation of the Fire/Police Chief, it sounds like a good idea, I think that having public debate and investigation into the matter by the charter commission would be a good idea, but that would be their decision to make.
Mark Potwora
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Speaking of the sign....Their is a sign on Main St.that says Genesee County Mall, and tells whats playing at the movie theater, but a tree blocks the sign...cut down the tree..and we will all see that sign that tells us were looking at the Mall...haha
Charlie Mallow
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Section 23-2 makes it clear that the fire chief needs to be a resident of the city within 6 months of taking the job. You can look it up online. http://www.e-codes.generalcode.com/codebook_frameset.asp?t=ws&cb=1824_A
Mark Potwora
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Thanks for that Charlie...I hope hes good at managing an ambulance company..that seems to more important part of the job..since its losing so much money...
John Roach
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The Charter Commission has not come to the sections of the Charter that address the Fire or Police Departments yet. We are just wrapping up the sections on the Council members and City Manager. It’s no secret that many of the present Council members are interested in looking at a single administrative head for both departments, and that a few are against any change. In addition, even if an idea seems good, that does not mean that there is not a State law, rule or regulations that prevent the adoption of the change being considered. So far, very few people have bothered to come and express their thoughts to the Commission. We meet the 1st Monday of every month until next August, and we may meet more often in the winter. Anyone can come and speak for 5 minutes if they sign up prior to the 6:30pm start time (just like City Council meetings).
Howard B. Owens
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Thanks, John. Any talk of going back to a strong mayor form of municipal government?
Russ Stresing
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John, Any consideration of the requirement for sitting members of the City Council to resign their seats before running for at-large?
Howard B. Owens
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Related to that ... does a city this size need such a large council? What about doing away with all at-large, or making a five-person council of all at-large?
John Roach
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We discussed the issue of going back to a mayor, but there was no support for it. You should remember that in last years ward elections, this issue was asked of each candidate by the Daily News and their answers were published. All 12 candidates said they did not want to return to a mayor. All nine Charter Commission members support a manager form of government for the city. Most of the members want a strong manager as we have now, but at least one member wants a weak manager and a stronger council.
John Roach
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We talked about the size of the City Council. Maybe you could attend a meeting?
Howard B. Owens
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I don't find it terribly convincing argument that candidates opposed. First, it depends on how question framed. Was it just "mayor" or "strong mayor" -- very different issues. How much discussion has there been of the issue that strong city manager leads to a city run by career bureaucrats instead of local people accountable to local electorate?
John Roach
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There was a lot. Both a weak and strong mayor and weak and strong manager were considered. There is a lot of information on this issue out there. You might not think it was convincing that all 12 candidates opposed the idea of a mayor, but then you neve came to a Charter meeting to give your ideas. This issue came up in 2000, at the last charter review, and was debated. Again, a strong city manager was considered best. Will you be at the next meeting?
Howard B. Owens
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John, I don't see it as my role to participate directly. I throw out ideas, raise questions and if they find support among people in Batavia who want to pursue that line of thinking, then I've done a good thing. Or if in throwing out ideas and raising issues, through the discussions people decide it was a stupid idea, and it dies, that's a good thing.

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