The Piedmont City Council voted unanimously this week to stop sharing a fire chief with the City of Albany and seek a full-time chief just for Piedmont.
The two cities have been sharing Chief Edward Tubbs, who served half time in each city.
And while the arrangement saved the city money and fostered shared resources and knowledge, the disadvantages outweighed the benefits, according to City Administrator Geoffrey Grote, who recommended that the council terminate the joint fire chief contract.
The council adopted the recommendation on a 4-0 vote at its Monday night meeting. Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka was absent.
The contract permits either city to withdraw from the agreement with 90 days notice, and Tubbs will continue in his present role of half-time for each city until his retirement on May 31, said City Clerk John Tulloch. The city is in contact with recruiting services and hopes to have a new chief in place on or about May 31, he said.
The City of Albany was pleased with the arrangement and wished to continue, but Albany has more administrative staff in the fire department than Piedmont and so could more easily work with a half-time chief, Tulloch said.
Patch has requested comment from Albany City Manager Beth Pollard.
After noting the advantages of sharing a chief in his report to the council, Grote described the downside: "Unfortunately, this arrangement has had significant downsides as well. The first and foremost is having a half time chief. In fact, the Chief spent less than half his time present in each city when you count business related meetings away from the office and time off.
"In addition, the Fire Department has very little administrative staff. With the Fire Chief present only half of the time, the department was able to complete its administrative requirements, but reduction in the department’s administrative capacity was certainly noticed. In terms of administrative staff, in addition to the Chief, the fire department only has a 40% fiscal services technician and less than half of an administrative assistant.
"In addition, various Fire Department employees have commented that having a half time Chief does not fully meet the needs of the department. Also, it should be noted that managing two departments in non-adjacent cities caused the Fire Chief’s workload to be more than doubled, which Chief Tubbs carried admirably, but frankly, took a toll on him."
Grote told the council that terminating the contract with Albany does not preclude it being resumed at some point in the future, and that he will invite Pollard to sit in on the panel interviewing finalist candidates for the Piedmont chief, according to the draft minutes of the meeting.
Tubbs joined the Piedmont fire department on Aug. 30, 2010. On April 4, 2011, the Piedmont City Council approved a one-year pilot program to share him with Albany. The agreement was renewed for two more years on April 2 last year, along with the 90-day-notice termination option.