Township abandons test for new fire chief

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, August 12, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles Township Board of Trustees won't require the new fire chief to take a test to qualify for the position.
Township Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt said the board feels the test given to the previous Niles Township Fire Chief Craig Lear was too narrow in scope and didn't cover necessary topics such as department administration.
The test, which is intended to test firefighters wishing to advance to the lieutenant and captain positions, only covers technical fire fighting skills, which is only a small part of the chief position, Durm-Hiatt said.
Through a contract with the firefighters' union, AIFF Local 2428, the township must follow certain guidelines in appointing a new fire chief.
To be considered for the fire chief position, a firefighter must first have five years of seniority in the Niles Township Fire Department, they must then pass the test with a score of 70 percent or better, according to Safety Committee Chairman and township Trustee Kevin Tonkin.
After passing the test, applicants go through an oral interview with three fire chiefs from surrounding fire departments.
The last time the township went selected a chief was January 2003, when Lear was appointed Niles Township Fire Chief, the interview was conducted by two chiefs and Tonkin.
When the board looked to replace Lear after removing him from the position in January of 2004, only two firefighters entered their names for consideration; Mike Pease and Lear, according to Durm-Hiatt.
Shortly after submitting his name, Pease withdrew. The board felt that Lear should not be considered given the fact he was recently removed from the position, Durm-Hiatt said.
One stipulation of the contract between the union and the township is that if no acceptable applicants are found within the township fire department, the board is free to take applications from outside individuals.
No longer bound by the union contract rules, the board decided that the test was invalid in judging an applicant's ability to be fire chief.
The board wrapped up interviews of potential candidates on Tuesday and are in the process of eliminating applicants they feel are not a right fit for the Niles Township Fire Department.