Doyle's departure won't halt changes

Posted: Friday, November 21, 2003

Juneau City Manager Rod Swope still believes in the reorganization proposed for Capital City Fire and Rescue, no matter who serves as its chief.

"The reorganization is needed, with or without Mike Doyle," he told the Empire on Thursday.

Doyle resigned from the department Wednesday, with Thursday scheduled to be his last day. Doyle has come under heavy criticism for a proposed organizational change in the department using volunteers and career firefighters.

Doyle was with the department for six years. In his letter of resignation, he said recent organizational changes "have not been universally popular."

The Juneau Assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing and consider the structural change Monday at its regular 7 p.m. meeting in the Assembly chambers.

Swope said the City Charter requires Assembly approval for changes in the fire department's organization of personnel.

Currently, each of the department's four stations has a volunteer chief. The reorganization plan would turn those four positions into volunteer captains. It also would create two division chiefs - one managing the career firefighters and the other managing the volunteers.

"This is a very common organization for combined (volunteer and professional) fire departments down south," Swope said.

In September, Doyle and Swope discussed the plans in meetings open to everyone in the department. One firefighter asked about volunteers being treated with less respect. Doyle and Swope pointed out the reorganization creates a volunteer divisional chief as an equal to the career divisional chief.

The divisional chiefs are scheduled to begin work Jan. 1.

"If it doesn't work, we'll try something else," Swope said Thursday. He said the proposal going to the Assembly will be general enough so adjustments can be made without Assembly approval, unlike the current detailed description of the department's personnel structure.

Swope said he has talked with volunteer and career firefighters, and finds most support the reorganization.

"There are problems that have existed for some time at the fire department that have nothing to do with Chief Doyle," Swope said.

Deputy Fire Chief Mike Fenster will act as the interim fire chief. Swope said the nationwide search for Doyle's successor will take three to five months.

Doyle couldn't be reached for comment.



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