By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
Those who support a move by Greenville Borough Council to hire a single public safety director to replace the police and fire chiefs say it’s a fiscally prudent move for the cash-strapped town to undertake.
Those against it say you can’t not afford to ensure the safety of the people of Greenville, who’ve endured a year shy of a dozen years as an Act 47 community.
As such, the town’s been essentially on the state’s municipal welfare rolls, and the recovery plan lists a couple hundred suggestions that could be used for Greenville to return to solvency.
Among those is cutting back on administrators like the police and fire chiefs.
That plan also recommends the borough go toward a volunteer fire department and explore merging with Hempfield Township – actions that have been resisted by officials.
“You can’t do them all at once,” council President Brian W. Shipley said.
But now’s the time to explore cutting the police and fire chiefs and hiring a single public services director, Shipley said.
Council is undertaking this about two years after it combined the leadership of the street and sewer departments into a single public services director position.
“We felt at that time it made more sense to go with a public services director first,” Shipley said. “We wanted to frankly let that develop.”
Now, it’s time to tackle public safety, Shipley said.
There’s no firm timeline and a specific job description hasn’t even be drafted, he said, but a divided council Tuesday approved creating the new position and advertising to fill it.
Shipley was joined by council members Pamela S. Auchter, Donald Shaw and Alfred “Skip” Peden in supporting the move, while council members Anthony D’Alfonso, Theodore Jones and Kateri Linn opposed it, Shipley said.
About 20 people came to the meeting and “most of the people” who came were against the move, D’Alfonso said.
Shipley said he’s faced more contentious issues while on council.
“I don’t think of public safety from a monetary standpoint,” D’Alfonso said.
Both police and fire chiefs “patrol the streets and respond to calls,” he said – something that a single administrator may not have time to do.
Making the move would save the borough cash – right now the jobs cost about $150,000 combined once benefits are factored in, Shipley said.
A salary for the new job hasn’t been set, and there’s no timeline on when someone would be hired, he said.
“We’re not going to do this just for the sake of doing it,” Shipley said. “We’re trying to explore what our options are at this point.”
He acknowledged the long-standing resistance to “any change” in the Greenville area.
“There’s always some kind of apprehension as we work through the unknowns,” he said.
Those unknowns are the reason police Chief Dennis Stephens wasn’t saying much about the issue Wednesday evening.
“I’m still kind of in the dark,” Stephens said. “I don’t know about the job description. I just don’t know enough yet.”
Fire Chief Steve Thompson didn’t return a message seeking comment.
“In no way will this affect the current police chief and current fire chief,” as far as operations go right now, Shipley said. “If we ultimately end up doing this it will take a separate action to dissolve those positions.”
“It’s still early enough in the process there can be more discussions and time to really look at things,” D’Alfonso said.