Schenectady County

Scotia mayor seeks broad search for fire chief

Mayor Kris Kastberg said he would like to look outside the village Fire Department to fill the soon-
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Mayor Kris Kastberg said he would like to look outside the village Fire Department to fill the soon-to-be-vacant chief’s post but does not have a specific timetable.

Fire Chief Richard Kasko submitted his resignation last week. He confirmed on Wednesday that he is leaving to become the fire chief for General Electric Research and Development in Niskayuna.

The Board of Trustees met for 10 minutes in public session Wednesday to discuss the fire chief issue. During that session, Kastberg said he favors an open competitive process to fill the position, in contrast to a “promotional” search, where the position would only be open to people currently working for the department.

“I don’t know if we have the three employees that qualify to take the test to be chief,” Kastberg said, adding that it requires eight years of firefighting experience plus two years of administrative experience.

Kastberg said he believes the option of contracting out fire management services is off the table. He has been before Schenectady fire officials on three separate occasions in the past few years and has not received any indication that they are interested in taking over the department.

Kastberg said last time the village hired a chief, in 2004, there were not enough local applicants for the position, so they expanded it to a national search.

Trustee Carol Carpenter said she wanted to make a residency requirement for the fire chief.

Following the public session, the board met for an hour and 10 minutes in executive session with labor attorney Brian Goldberger.

Kastberg said after the meeting that the board has to make sure it follows civil service procedures. “We’re making sure we cross our T’s and dot our I’s,” he said.

Kastberg said that under the village ordinance, Volunteer Chief Jim Nevins will assume the duties of fire chief.

Kasko, who starts his new job Monday, said he was excited about the challenges of a new position. About his departure, he said, “you’ve been to every board meeting,” alluding to the efforts by the mayor to eliminate his position in this year’s budget. The funding was restored after the local firefighters’ union and residents protested.

“I really never wanted to leave. I really liked it here,” Kasko said,

He praised the department as very professional and well-trained. Kasko said he was pleased to have delivered the services in the most economically and efficient way possible. He said he started an in-house code training program and submitted a 2008-09 budget that was smaller than the current year’s while not cutting into vital services.

Capt. Ken Almy, president of the Scotia Permanent Firemen’s Association, said he has no problem with an open search for a chief, as long as qualified members from within the department are considered.

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