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Tyrone considers eliminating fire chief position

There may be a change in the fire ranks of the Tyrone Borough Council.
Last month, council accepted the resignation of Fire Chief Jim Beckwith. He had served in the position for 28 years and until the closure of the Citizen’s Fire Company was in charge of three companies constituting the department.
Now, the idea of having no single fire chief in charge of the two remaining companies was brought forth at last night’s meeting. Instead, council is now considering a three member committee consisting of the fire chiefs of the two remaining companies and a member of council who is not part of the fire department.
“The fire chief is appointed by the borough to overall see all the companies in the department, company chiefs are elected within in the company and are then presented before council for final approval,” explained Beckwith after last night’s meeting.
“When Citizen’s went out of business it left the community with only two fire companies,” said Beckwith. “In many other communities where there are two or less companies there is no overall fire chief.”
Councilman J.R. Watson said Bellefonte and Huntingdon are two communities operating without an overall fire chief.
Beckwith indicated, in his absence, when an incident occurs, the senior fire chief (the company chief with the most years of experience as a chief) would take command of the scene if more than one company was called to it. Beckwith further explained the procedure will continue even if the borough goes to the new system of having no overall fire chief. Currently, Ray Stringer and Bob Lynn are the chiefs of Tyrone’s two remaining companies.
Beckwith also explained the overall chief’s position comes up for appointment in even years, while company chiefs are elected in odd years. This would create the possibility of both chiefs being replaced in the same year leaving neither with seniority or experience in running the overall department.
Mayor Patricia Stoner directed the borough solicitor Larry Clapper to prepared an ordinance to be considered as soon as next week’s council meeting. The need to adopt the ordinance quickly is necessitated by Beckwith’s retirement at the end of the month; however, the longtime chief indicated he’d stay on board after the turn of the year, perhaps an additional month if the matter isn’t resolved prior to his retirement date of Dec. 31.
In other business, Tyrone Borough voted to create a board of health and approved four members to the board. Council is also considering adding an additional fifth member with a medical background at a later time. The move was made ahead of the consideration of another ordinance which would regulate tattoo establishments in the borough. The unadvertised ordinance passed unanimously.
Also, from last night’s meeting, council:
•approved a payment request from Hickes Associates for new pumps at the water plant. The payment of $239,260.74 will be made through the sewer reserve fund;
•heard concerns from the Allegheny Rod Club regarding recent road restrictions in the watershed area. Council agreed to lift some of the restrictions during certain hunting periods and work with the club to allow it access to a borough owned road allowing the club to do maintenance a couple times a year on its own property; and
•tabled a final payment request from Krieger Contracting regarding the in-line hockey rink pending a request from the borough to have a paint problem corrected.