So far, the position of fire chief in Rockland is still up for grabs.
Officials say one option to cover this position would be the hiring of a public safety director, who would be in charge of the police and fire departments simultaneously.
Although selectmen have not made a finalized decision, Rockland Firefighters Local 1602 are quite unhappy with this possibility.
Union president Tom Henderson and Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, took turns at a podium in front of more than a dozen silent firefighters outside the station on Union Street station Monday evening.
“Today we stand before you to voice our strong opposition to the Rockland Board of Selectmen’s proposal to eliminate the Rockland fire and police chief, to create a public safety director,” Henderson said. “Our selectmen are blatantly violating the Town Charter.”
Henderson said a safety director lacks knowledge and experience to effectively direct the fire department, which works to keep 17,000 citizens in the town safe.
“These are all critical decisions, that affect the safety of residents,” Henderson said.
Henderson added this decision should not be made without input from the residents, who the decision would directly affect.
Henderson added a public safety director would be partial to one department over another, which would prove to be a problem if there was a fire and a robbery at the same time.
But Town Administrator Alan Chiocca said a public safety director is only one possibility being considered.
“The selectmen are supporting all options available,” Chiocca said. “At this time they’ve delayed filling the vacancy for at least two weeks based on an offer by the Plymouth County Fire Chief’s association to assist Rockland in gaining the services of maybe a retired chief for maybe an interim period of time.”
Chiocca added selectmen may discuss the matter again at their June 29 meeting. And before that meeting, Chiocca added the board plans to meet with candidates and members of the association to try to discuss options for a temporary chief.
Although there is no deadline on the matter, Acting Fire Chief William Fergusson, has said he would like to be relieved of chief duties by Aug. 3.
“Somewhere down the line, if they wanted to have a safety director, they’d need a Charter change,” Chiocca said. “But the board recognizes that it wants to explore its options.”
McCarthy said this would be an option the fire department would be dead against, adding he fears selectmen would choose a “puppet who tells selectmen what they want to hear.”
McCarthy stressed firefighters would be risking their lives under the watch of a public safety director.
“When they go into a building, we don’t come out unless someone tells them to,” McCarthy said. “I will sue (selectmen) … if one of my members gets killed, one of my members gets injured, if one of my members loses property.”