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Cornelius News

Cornelius begins search for Public Safety Director

By Dave Vieser.  Cornelius is looking for a public safety director to help oversee the town’s fire and police departments. Budgeted at $100,000 annually, the new administrative layer between Town Manager Andrew Grant and the chiefs could be filled by a consultant or a new town employee.  “I’ll evaluate the interested firms and potential candidates, and then make a recommendation to the Town Board,” Grant said.

Ads seeking applicants for the position have been placed with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the International City/County Management Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Police Chiefs.

Grant said he hoped to begin interviewing prospective candidates within the next several weeks and have a recommendation by late fall or early winter.

In the ad placed by the town, it states that “this position will conduct on-going reviews of each departments’ programs, staffing levels, call volume, etc. to ensure both departments are operating effectively and efficiently in the short-, mid- and long-term. This position will evaluate facility needs and capital needs for both departments.”

While it is structured to address both police and fire department issues, it was the fire department which caught the majority of attention during this year’s budget adoption process. Immediate concern was placed on salaries, but the bigger picture includes a decision on what type of fire department the town should have.

There was a backlash over firefighter pay during the budget hearing process this past spring, with firefighters and residents packing Town Hall not long before the budget was supposed to be adopted.

Commissioner Dave Gilroy said the new job will help the town make critical decisions in a “non-political” atmosphere.

Right now the town’s fire department is classified as a part-time paid/volunteer department, a separate 501(c) 6 -tax exempt entity that operates in a contractual relationship with the Town. The department is staffed by part-time paid firefighters and supplemented by a small group of volunteers. Most of the part-timers are full-time firefighters elsewhere, mostly in Charlotte.

The new Director of Public Safety or consultant will likely have to focus on this structure to ascertain if it is best for the town’s future.

The position was not in the proposed budget but was later added by the Town Board prior to the budget’s adoption—a somewhat unusual occurrence.