Dalton on Search for New Fire Chief
DALTON, Mass. — Chris Cachat will continue as acting fire chief as the Board of Water Commissioners determines its next steps.
Cachat, the assistant chief, stepped in three weeks ago when James Peltier was placed on administrative leave. Peltier was fired last week for what the commissioners said were personnel complaints and for overspending his budget.
Commission Chair James Driscoll said at Tuesday's meeting it could take the department a couple of weeks to a couple of months to find a replacement.
Hiring from outside the department search could take longer.
Cachat has been a firefighter for more than 25 years. Since taking over he has been juggling his full-time job at Mirabito Energy Products.
Although it has been challenging, Mirabito Energy has been very understanding and has a history of being supportive of first responders, letting people leave their job to answer calls, Cachat said.
Although it was confusing at first, running the department has been going will with the help from staff who stepped up, he said.
"It actually has been pretty good for the last two or three weeks. It's always going to be something that you may not be familiar with, but we've handled everything that's come up so far, and I really don't see the future being any different," Cachat said.
The district is going to put together a search committee and put out a request for applications and set up interviews.
It is unclear if Cachat could be the choice but the district has asked if he's interested, Driscoll said.
"I'm not gonna say no, but right now it's whatever is best for the department and for the district, and whatever the commissioners choose I'm all about," Cachat said.
The department is looking for a chief who can lead the department in a cohesive way that feels fair and makes everyone feel like they are being treated well," Driscoll said.
"Communication was, I think, one of the biggest issues with [Peltier,] a lot of the members felt that he didn't communicate anything with them," he said.
"He just told them that's what they're going to do because that's what he wanted to do. So communication, I think, is going to be a big part of this."
It was following the firefighter's vote of no confidence in the chief early last week that the Fire District decided it was time to part ways with Peltier.
There are some personnel who are disappointed and may leave the department with the decision to terminate Peltier, Driscoll said, but there is also a good chance previous personnel will return upon hearing of this decision.
He said some firefighters believed that Peltier was biased when it came to some personnel.
"They thought that he had different ways of handling different people," he said, adding some employees felt they were slighted while others were given advantages that not everyone was provided.
Upon being put on administrative leave, Peltier was given a list of grievances that included management concerns regarding personnel and money.
"There was some issues with monies that were spent that he didn't have the authority to spend. and there was really no confidence in him moving forward at this point and the rank and file did not feel confident with him in his position," Driscoll said.
Peltier has excellent firefighting techniques and helped the department become compliant with maintenance issues the district had let slide but he is lacking in the leadership skills the district is looking for, he said.
"I think that the station now is in a better place, equipment wise. I think he did a good job when he first came on. I just think that he lost focus on where he was and what he was going to be doing for us," Driscoll said.
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