By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – A consultant’s report has cited that a lack of consistent leadership in the Marlborough Fire Department during the past 10 years has resulted in some significant problems. That report was presented by Peter Finley and George Klauber of Municipal Resources, Inc. to the City Council during its March 9 meeting.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant requested an in-depth review of the department early last year following the decision by Fire Chief James Fortin to retire in December 2014. Fortin was the fourth chief since 2005 to do so.
The report listed issues such as incomplete and inadequate department policies and procedures, an obsolete and seriously code deficient Fire Station 2, service gaps and response time/distance concerns in the west end of the city, lack of a formal training program and an inadequate fire prevention program.
The frequent turnover in management has caused a lack of leadership consistency and has led the union to fill the “leadership vacuum” and exert undue influence in the department and the operation, the report stated.
Ward 1 City Councilor Joseph Delano expressed concern regarding what he called the “deplorable state” of the department.
“Our residents deserve better and our firefighters deserve better,” he said. “Something has to change. We have a lot of good people. It is so upsetting the loyalty is to the unions and not to the residents. We need to get the department in order now.”
As the search for a new fire chief continues Interim Fire Chief Geoffrey Herald is currently working with city officials to implement some of the changes recommended in the report, according to City Council President Trish Pope and Mayor Arthur Vigeant.
The consultants recommend that a three-person management team be established to assist the chief on a continuing basis. Their responsibilities could be divided as follows: assistant chief of operations, second in command and responsible for the direct supervision of the fire captains, daily operational activities, personnel management, facilities, apparatus and equipment. This staff person would directly supervise the four platoon commanders.
The second team member would be assistant chief for support services and third in command of the department. This person would be responsible for administration, training and safety.
The third staff person would be an assistant chief for fire prevention, fourth in command, and responsible for all fire prevention and code enforcement activities.
The report is currently under study in the Urban Affairs Committee. Members will continue working with Herald and other department heads, as well as with the consultants.
The suggestion of a master plan consolidating all the recommendations is also being considered by the City Council.