Franklin Board of Aldermen approved advertising for a full-time fire chief during a special called meeting last week. The advertisement for the position will be posted locally and statewide.
Warren Cabe is currently serving as the interim, part-time chief. Cabe was the full-time fire chief in 2011 and remained in that role even when he was hired as Franklin’s town manager in 2013. When Cabe resigned as town manager in April 2014 to go back to his old job as Macon County’s emergency management director, he said he would stay on as fire chief until the town found a replacement. As interim chief, Cabe was paid $250 a month.
The town called the special meeting last week to consider Cabe’s request to hire a second assistant chief. The department has always had two assistant chiefs — one volunteer and one paid position, but he was looking to make both positions paid in order to groom some firefighters for the chief position. However, the board denied his request and decided to proceed with hiring a new full-time chief.
“We knew it was going to come to that, but I was not exactly prepared for it at that time,” Cabe said.
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said several factors were involved in the decision, including the unprecedented growth of the town, increasing calls for service and the mix of fulltime and volunteer firefighters in the department. He said Cabe serving as the volunteer chief was always meant to be temporary.
“With millions of dollars in fire equipment and property, it is time that we move in this direction,” Scott said. “This will provide the town with a full-time department head, which will result in more efficiency and in defining reporting relationships within the town government.”
While the Franklin Fire Department was once entirely run by volunteers, Cabe said that standard is quickly changing. When he was chief in 2011, there were only three paid firefighters — now there are six paid firefighters and 27 volunteers. Keeping volunteers can be difficult as the number of calls continues to rise.
“From 2011 to today we’ve had an increase of probably 300 calls a year,” Cabe said. “In 2011, we had about 1,300 calls and this year we’ve had 1,600 calls already.”
Under Franklin’s council-manager form of government, Scott said, the town manager is responsible for hiring all town employees. However, pursuant to the town’s personnel policy, a new position shall be established upon recommendation of the town manager and approval of the town board.
The position will be advertised and anyone meeting the qualifications is welcome to apply. The town board has not set a deadline for filling the position.