The news that Miles Schlichte, one of Gloucester's deputy fire chiefs, is stepping down from his side post as emergency management director comes as no surprise (see news story, Page 1). He had, after all, threatened to quit the $10,000-a-year stipend position late last year if the City Council declined to steer another $40,000 into his idea of a new department — and, to their credit, the councilors never did.
For all that Schlichte has done in advancing the city's emergency service operations — and he's done a lot, including establishment of a Fuller School emergency nerve center that can be activated whenever needed — he cannot make the case for adding a full-time director's job on top of the Fire Department's current list of deputies. And Chief Administrative Officer Jim Duggan is right; the structuring of any such Emergency Management Department belongs squarely in the hands of the city's new, incoming permanent fire chief, who should be chosen by the mayor this week.
Establishing an emergency management "department" or perhaps as a division of the police and fire departments should be a good thing. It would give the city a real blueprint for working with relief agencies if a shelter is needed, for example, and it should open the door to the city receiving state and federal grant money.
But a new fire chief will be tasked from the start with restructuring the main aspects of the Fire Department.
Any emergency department should be part of that effort, not independent from it.