BREWER, Maine — It works for Hampden, Holden and Westbrook, and city officials think that having a public safety director to oversee both the police and fire departments will work for Brewer, too.
“I’m confident that it will be successful, and that’s based on the people who work in both agencies,” Police Chief Perry Antone, who has been tapped to fill the new post, said Wednesday. “The city of Brewer is very fortunate to have a high caliber of employees. It’s because of that that I believe this will work. It’s going to require everybody on both sides to work together to make it successful.”
The idea of creating the position is not new, City Manager Steve Bost said.
“It’s been discussed for some time,” he said. “We decided to proceed on the idea with the pending departure of [Fire Chief] Gary Parent. The timing seemed appropriate.”
Parent, who joined the department in 1984 and became chief in February 2010, is retiring in October.
“We hope to accomplish several things,” Bost said. “First, we would like to create efficiencies within the department, and this provides up an opportunity to do that. By not replacing the fire chief, we will downsize a full-time position and parcel those duties to the new public safety director, as well as the command staff on both sides of the building.
“Perry is very enthusiastic about the idea,” the city manager said, adding the move should save taxpayer dollars.
Once the discussion turned from idea to an action plan, Antone began contacting communities that have public safety directors to find out the pros and cons of making the move.
Hampden police Chief Joe Rogers has been the public safety director in Hampden for several years; Michael Pardue, a retired Ogunquit police chief, got the Westbrook job about two years ago; and Jim Ellis, fire chief for both Holden and Eddington, has been Holden’s public safety director since at least 1999.
“It can work with the right people, right place and at the right time,” said Antone, who became the police chief for Brewer in March 2006 after 25 years as an officer.
“They’re a good group of guys next door,” he added later, referring to the firefighters. “My staff is phenomenal, as well, and there is no way I could consider something like this without their support.”
Lt. Chris Martin and Capt. Jason Moffitt, whom Antone called exceptional law enforcement leaders, are critical to the plan, the chief said.
The fire department currently has a team of five officers and 12 full-time and four part-time firefighters. The police department has six command officers, 16 patrol officers and three part-timers. All will come under the umbrella of the public safety director.
“The two agencies get along so well — we’ve worked out of the same building 63 years,” Antone said. “I only see this as something that will bring us closer.”
All the details about the new position are still being ironed out, including rewriting job descriptions, Bost said.
“[Antone] and his staff are working on it and hopefully will have something to present to the council by the middle of the summer,” the city manager said, noting that the City Council would need to approve creation of the new position.
Councilor Larry Doughty said earlier this week that he has advocated for a public safety director position for years.
As the public safety director, Antone said he would go to fires but will not be fighting the flames. He said he’ll leave that job to the experts.
“I’m not coming in to tell them how to fight fires; that is not my role,” the chief said. “The fire officers will remain in place [and] they will be the people responsible for the fire scene. My role will strictly be as support to the command officer at the scene to supply him with whatever logistics he needs at the scene.”
He will also oversee the budgets for both departments and said he’ll ensure both get the tools and supplies they need to get the job done.
“The true benefactors are the citizens of Brewer,” Antone said.