Westfield Officials Meet To Discuss Fire Conflicts

WESTFIELD – On Jan. 7, Westfield Mayor Mike VandeVelde held a joint meeting at Eason Hall, which included the Westfield Village Board, the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners, members of the Westfield Fire Department and members of the Westfield Fire Department Consulting Committee.

VandeVelde called the meeting to begin a discussion to resolve conflicts between the Westfield Fire Department and the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners. All members of the Westfield Fire Department were invited to the forum. Additionally, the audience was given an overview of the Westfield Fire Department consulting report, which defined critical issues affecting the Westfield Fire Department.

Some of the issues identified by the consulting committee include:

A deep polarization that exists between the fire department and members of the Board of Fire Commissioners

Fire department officers and chiefs who may not be fully prepared for their roles. In addition, the short tenure of fire chiefs does not allow for extensive professional development, mentoring or experience.

A communication gap between the Westfield Fire Department and the Board of Fire Commissioners

Recruitment on the fire department is a challenge, while attrition is increasing

The role of fundraising for the fire department, and who should ultimately be responsible for fundraising for the fire department

All of the comments made by members of the Westfield Fire Department at the Jan. 7 meeting were collected, and will now be the focus of future meetings towards the goal of resolving these conflicts and challenges.

The next meeting of the Westfield Fire Department consulting committee is scheduled for Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. at Eason Hall, 23 Elm St., Westfield.

The consulting committee consists of members of the Westfield Village Board, the Westfield Town Board, the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners, the Westfield Fire Department and members of the community with extensive experience in organizational leadership in the public safety sector.

Additionally, during the Jan. 7 meeting, questions were raised by members of the fire department concerning the status of suspended officers of the Westfield Fire Department.

On Jan. 8, administrative hearings were held at Eason Hall in order to adjudicate these matters. The hearings have now been completed, and the involved parties will be notified of the decision of the hearing board as to each of their cases by the attorney retained by the village of Westfield.