By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – With a 3-2 vote, Southborough Selectmen agreed during their Oct. 19 meeting to amend Fire Chief Steven Achilles’ contract, removing the requirement he has to maintain paramedic certification throughout the duration of his contract.
Instead, Achilles will have to maintain emergency medical technician certification.
His contract expires on April 28 of next year.
In a letter, the fire chief said there were times during his two-year tenure when he had to be the primary paramedic while at the same time acting as the ranking chief officer at a scene.
He felt that situation creates a “conflict” and said he feels he should focus on his fire chief duties.
Selectmen Chair Lisa Braccio said the matter had been discussed in executive session before being brought up at the public meeting.
An opinion from town counsel Mead, Talerman & Costa, LLC, noted that the chief is responsible for the direction and control of the scene to ensure personnel is responding to the needs during an emergency.
Although the firm did not see a “conflict,” per se, it noted the board could defer to his experience of time management and the fact that other lower-level employees are responding to medical incidents.
Town counsel said the fire chief’s request for an amendment also appeared to be related to his personal comfort level in performing paramedic duties.
Vice Chair Chelsea Malinowski said that she is uncomfortable with the fire chief dropping two levels down in certification from a paramedic to a basic EMT. She said the emergency personnel, at a minimum, have an advanced EMT certification.
However, Malinowski said that she didn’t want to downplay the fire chief’s performance in any way.
“He brings a lot of value to the fire chief position, and I think we’re seeing that in the operations of the department,” Malinowski said. “We get a lot out of his leadership, and I don’t want to take away from that.”
Braccio said she sees the fire department as “paramedic driven,” and therefore, she said she has reservations as well. She noted that she was involved in prior negotiations of the fire chief contract and knows that the paramedic certification “was an important piece” of the agreement.
“This is not on you,” she told the chief, also praising his leadership.
The other selectmen, Martin Healey, Sam Stivers and Andrew Dennington, voted in favor of the amendment.
Selectmen and Achilles have both expressed interest in renewing his contract but have not started discussions yet.
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