GLASGOW – Glasgow's fire chief has decided it's time to “move on to that next chapter of my life.”
Bryan Marr started as a firefighter with the department June 15, 1998. He formally became chief two years ago this month after the retirement of Chief Tony Atwood, and now he's taking his turn to retire. Marr's last day of employment is set for Sept. 30. He said he turned in his resignation about two weeks ago. The advertisement seeking his replacement has been posted for several days now, with an Aug. 16 deadline for applications.
“I put a little extra time in after I got chief of the department,” he said Wednesday. “Over the last couple of years, as chief, I've been able to see some changes and be a part of some of the changes in the department and I still had a few things that I wanted to get through. I was able to establish a pay scale this [fiscal] year, for the shift firefighters, where somebody coming in will actually have that in front of them where they will know, 'Where will I be, salarywise, 10 years from now, 15 years from now?' [to] give them an incentive to promote, to move up, to say, 'Hey, here's what I'm shooting for.'”
The scale is based on years of service within each position and shows a base rate. As the city approves it, some additional pay may be tacked on for achieving nonmandatory certifications, like emergency medical technician or inspector, that help the department and the community and allow an elevated level of service from that individual, Marr said.
During his first year as fire chief, the department was able to purchase both a ladder truck and engine truck, and some new equipment to replace some that “was getting in pretty dire shape.”
“With the engine, we got new rescue tools” (aka jaws of life), and new hose and other things," he said.
Normally, such significant purchases would not occur that closely together, but a bit of a special opportunity arose the city was able to utilize.
“When we were spec-ing out our new engine, in that time frame, the company we purchased the engine from also had a demo model ladder truck. It was a year old, had about 15,000 miles on it where they had driven to trade shows, conventions, conferences and stuff and just shown it off, and we were able to get a very good deal on that ladder truck to purchase that at the same time. It just kind of came up at the last second,” he said. “They had been reducing the price on it, and once they finally lowered the price to a point where every fire department was wanting to jump on it, we were able to get that through quick enough.”
Glasgow just barely got it approved in time to get the deal before other departments could snatch it.
Also during his time as chief, the city was fortunate enough to get a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (through FEMA) of about $180,000 with a 5 percent match, that was used to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses, also called air packs, that have now been in service on the trucks for two months.
“We also got a Kentucky Homeland Security grant that we were able to purchase – that was $90,000 – where we got a new radio system,” Marr said.
Although the addition of a third fire station has not been as much of a top priority for Marr as for his predecessor(s), he said it is should continue to be a goal.
“A third station for the community is still something that is needed. It is definitely still needed out toward the northwestern portion of the city,” Marr said. “It is definitely still needed. That is one of the things that actually does still cost us some points on ISO [property insurance] rating – that and the number of personnel we've got on duty. That could be bumped up, for their purposes and also for NFPA for safety. Those are some pretty large-expense items that … It takes a lot of legwork to get everything done. It takes a lot of background effort before we can get to that point that we just haven't gotten accomplished yet, part of that being, the city itself is going to have to figure out some new avenues of revenue to come in, because, like everything else, what we are doing in the fire service, in the fire department, everything that we're doing now continues to get more expensive – from equipment to the training we have to get, all of that.
“In order to maintain just what we have right now, it's going to continue to get more expensive as time goes on, and then there's also a need for this department, as the community grows, to grow with the community, so it's getting expensive. It really is getting expensive to run a fire department.”
Part of that cost is the mandatory contribution to the state retirement system, an ever-increasing percentage of employees' salary. Uncertainty over the future of it is part of the reason Marr, 47, is choosing to retire at this particular time.
“It's not that anything has changed right now, immediately,” he said. “I've found as you get on, especially after you've reached your full retirement time, all the little talk starts making you a little bit more nervous about some change coming in. That's a portion of it.”
The other part of it is family. His son is nearly 17 and his daughter is 12.
“Since I've gotten off shift and work my regular 40-hour work week office hours, it's not nearly as hard on family life as the shift work kind of has a tendency to be, but it's still time away,” Marr said, noting that schedule change started about six years ago when he made battalion chief. He was assistant chief then before getting the top post.
“I've got two kids. I want to be there. I want be able to do coaching with them, doing all the little things. If I'm not coaching, going and watching them play soccer, play golf, do stuff like that,” he said. “That and I was always told, 'You'll just know when it's time.' I still have a love and a passion for the fire service, but it starts getting outweighed with other things you want.”
He won't get to just rest on his laurels indefinitely, though.
“I still teach for the state; I teach fire and rescue and EMS classes. I'm going to continue doing that,” he said, adding that while he hopes to spend more time with his children while they're still at home, he fully expects to end up in another full time job sooner rather than later.
Mayor Harold Armstrong said that once the application deadline has passed, there will be an interview process and a selection will be made. He said he does not intend to form a search committee for this hire, but he does anticipate having a couple of members of his administrative staff and at least one council member present for the interviews and to provide feedback on the selection.
He said this will be a typical search process, not like the one he used recently for the choice of the new police chief that involved voting among the staff and others and which he said he does not intend to use for selecting the head of any other department.