Lee is getting a full-time fire chief

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LEE >> The Lee Fire Department will soon be commanded by a first-ever full-time fire chief.

With surprisingly zero debate, a special town meeting on Thursday night in a near unanimous decision agreed to spend an extra $25,000 to fund the public safety position that town officials hope to fill by year's end.

The new chief will have the added duties of overseeing the Lee Volunteer Ambulance Service, also as of now a separate part-time position.

"I thought there would be some debate," said former Lee Selectman Gordon Bailey.

The chair of the fire chief study committee believes the nine-member panel carefully vetted the notion of a full-time chief, leaving the town meeting representatives nothing to discuss.

"We looked at a lot of issues as we tried to determine what's best for the department and what's best for the town," Bailey told The Eagle afterwards.

The $25,000 will augment what's left of the annual $18,500 salary for the current part-time chief Alan Sparks who is retiring at the end of December. The additional pay will cover the position for the last six months of fiscal 2017 which ends June 30.

Town Administrator Robert Nason expects the search, likely aided by several other Berkshire County fire chiefs and public input, to begin in earnest.

"The concept is basically to recruit candidates from within and outside the department," Nason said after the meeting.

Nason hopes to spend about $60,000 for the first full fiscal year of the chief's salary.

Sparks earlier this year announced he was stepping down after six years as fire chief — 49 years overall as a Lee firefighter. In March, Lisa Michaud also resigned as the ambulance director, but has agreed to stay in that role for a few hours each week until the position was filled or combined with the chief's duties.

The fire chief's duties alone have increased in recent years, according to municipal officials. Nason has pointed out the state has emphasized improved fire prevention, inspections and training through the chief's position. As a part-timer, Sparks can't keep up with all the required inspections per the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code.


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