Island Gazette

Carolina Beach Hires New Fire Chief; Hiring Freeze On All Other Positions

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach has filled one of its two vacant chief positions.
On Tuesday March 27, the Town announced the hiring of Mr. Alan Griffin as the Town’s new Fire Chief. 
According to Town Manager Tim Owens, “Chief Griffin is a good fit for the community and Fire Department.  He possesses all of the qualities that we were looking for to be part of our leadership team.”
Griffin will begin work with the Town on April 23, 2012. According to a release issued by the Town late Tuesday, "Chief Griffin has many years of experience in the fire profession and currently holds the position of the Director of Emergency Services for Montgomery County, NC.  He has served in this capacity since 2007.  Chief Griffin has strong ties to the volunteer fire service. He has served in the volunteer fire service since 1993 and currently as the Biscoe Fire Chief since 2010. Chief Griffin has worked as a Fire Suppression Lieutenant with the Village of Pinehurst, NC and as the Assistant Fire Marshal for Moore County."
According to Chief Griffin, "I am looking forward to becoming part of the Town of Carolina Beach family; my number one priority is to continue the high level of Fire Protection and Prevention that the citizens and visitors to Carolina Beach have come to expect". "This is a beautiful town, and I am excited about the move and becoming part of the Carolina Beach community".
At the Council's March 13, meeting following a closed session meeting, Councilman Steve Shuttleworth made a motion to implement a hiring freeze on all positions except the position of Fire Chief.
Councilman Shuttleworth made a motion to, "Ask the Town Manager to implement a hiring freeze on all vacancies except for the fire chief until a final budget is approved by Council for the fiscal year 2012-2013" which begins July 1.
Shuttleworth said, "I'm asking him not to hire a chief of police" and freeze other vacant positions to allow discussion of the positions and funding during the budget planning process.
Mayor Ray Rothrock explained, "If you would not include the chief of police in there I might support it". He said, "I think the chief of police as well as the fire chief are key positions and all that has gone on toward the advertising and hiring and interviewing, and interviews already scheduled, that it would undermine us getting a chief of police that we need" in that position.
He said, "For that reason, I won't support it."
Councilman Lonnie Lashley said, "We've been without a police chief since December, or earlier. Now you want to go four more months. I can't see a department going six months with an acting chief. They need to put someone in there to lead that. They can address the vacancies."
Councilman Bob Lewis explained, "I think there's ideas coming forward from Council members on budgets that there might be consolidation of departments. Not specifically the police department, but consolidation of director positions. There might be some other ideas around how we address particular budget items until we get to the budget."
Lewis said, "I appreciate where you guys are coming from. There's a leadership position out there and right now we have a person who is doing it in a temporary position. But I've talked to police officers and they don't seem to have a morale issue anymore and things seem to be operating ok at this point. I'd rather wait."
Shuttleworth said, "My reason for making the motion was, we do have an acting chief. He has been with the department for a number of years and he seems to be carrying the weight fine. I would just like to at least - through the budget meetings coming up - have the discussion of what the structure is of our income and expenses for the community."
He said, "I agree whole heartedly that we should not micro-mange. It's up to the Town Manager to hire whoever he wants. I'm not asking him to hire this person or that person, I'm saying don't hire anybody until we figure out a budget."
He said, "Yes Lonnie, we've been four months and I don't see a bunch of new crime activity and the morale seems to be ok and they seem to be operating alright."
Shuttleworth said the fire chief position is different because of the volunteer fire fighter aspect.
Town Manager Tim Owens said it's a council decision to freeze positions. He said, "We've asked one guy to come from Florida and two to come from within North Carolina" to interview for the police chief position. Owens said, "There may not be a candidate that shakes out of this. We are interviewing a few folks. I don't know if there will be a candidate. We may continue with an interim acting chief or we may find a candidate that is suitable."
Owens explained, "We've gone from 117 budget positions down to less than 95. I can tell you right now there probably aren't many towns that have cut twenty percent of their staff. I feel like we are adequately staffed where we need to be."
Owens said, "There are other options. You mentioned consolidating some departments. I'm personally not necessarily in favor of that but we can talk through those. I think you will end up hiring a bunch of temps and probably still be about the same budget-wise as you are."
Shuttleworth said his motion didn't concern consolidating departments nor directing Owens not to interview applicants for the police chief position.
Council member Sarah Friede explained, "I think in this kind of economy if its the right job and you say to somebody, listen, we are in the middle of the budget process, it will be a couple of months, we're not in a position to make an offer right now. I think people will wait for the right job. I think people in this economy are happy to have a job and a new job opportunity."
She explained that interim chief Kurt Bartley hasn't come to the Council indicating there are any issues with public safety or morale among officers. She explained, "It is crucial to have a police department that is well staffed and has a good leader but I think if we can hold off on this for another couple of months until we get the budget in place we will be in a better position to at least discuss the salary range that we can offer. We are going to have to make some really hard decisions in the budget process."
She said the Council could always reconsider anytime between now and adoption of the budget in June.
Shuttleworth said, "If we come out of the March meeting and we are 90% there" they could reconsider the issue.
Mayor Rothrock said, "What you're saying now is, don't hire a chief of police until Steve Shuttleworth is satisfied with the budget."
Shuttleworth said, "No, I'm saying until the budget is approved."
Rothrock said, "It may be approved the second Tuesday of June. If it is, then the manager can do whatever he wants to."
The Council voted three to two in favor of Shuttleworth's motion on the hiring freeze. Council members Shuttleworth, Friede and Lewis voted in favor. Mayor Rothrock and Councilman Lashley voted no.
Former fire chief Jon Rorie resigned December 15, 2011 to take a position as Community Services Director with the City of Peachtree City, Georgia.
Former police chief William Younginer retired effective December 1, 2011.
The Town Council will hold a meeting Friday March 30, in the Council room at Town Hall. This is a continued meeting from March 13, 2012 to consider various recommendations by the Police Advisory Committee and to discuss any other matters in follow-up to the March 13th meeting. Also at this time Council will hold a work session to continue discussions concerning the proposed Budget for FY 2012/2013.


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