Ogdensburg mayor mulls combining fire and police chief positions

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OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - The new mayor of Ogdensburg is looking into the idea of having one person oversee both the fire and police departments. This comes after the retirement of long-time fire chief Michael Farrell.

“It would be definitely a cost savings," Ogdensburg Mayor Mike Skelly said. "Because we would have one department head. One head for both departments.”

Last year, Police Chief Andrew Kennedy’s salary was $98,114. The fire chief’s salary was $86,851. Skelly said the reason he’s looking into combining the jobs is simple.

“Cost savings, efficiency and cost savings," Skelly said. "Because we have to save costs somewhere in our city and we’re looking at every department.”

The city advertised for a new fire chief but had no applicants and right now, there is a hiring freeze. The council will hear about a temporary fix Monday. Firefighters say the job is an essential one.

“You have to have some type of leadership," Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 President Allen Rickett said. "It's hard to have any unity when you don't have one leader in an office, five days a week.”

The chief performs the administrative duties that keep the department running. But people shouldn’t be worrying when they call 911 in his absence.

“A fire scene runs with a duty officer, whether that be an assistant chief or a captain," Rickett said. "So as far as our emergency response, that will not be affected whatsoever.”

A single public safety commissioner overseeing police and fire is the first big change Skelly has broached since his landslide election victory. He’s promising there are more to come.

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