Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan said he has asked the Board of Aldermen to create a top-level Fire Department position outside of the state civil service process.
If approved by the board, the assistant fire chief would give the department stronger leadership as it takes on more duties, such as expanded ambulance service, which is set to start accommodating more urgent and advanced medical needs.
"We have modernized our Fire Department and we need a bigger senior administrative structure," Dolan said in a phone interview. "It gives the chief a solid number two outside of the union structure."
To create the position, Dolan said he and Chief Chris Leary -- who was promoted from captain in May -- will eliminate an unfilled captain's position, for which there were no applicants from within the department who took the required civil service test.
Dolan said he and Leary have tentatively selected current Melrose Fire Department Captain Ed Collina for the job.
In a letter to the board, Leary said the position was first suggest by former chief John O'Brien in 2007, after a study conducted two years earlier following a near-fatality at a fire found that the command staff appeared overwhelmed.
The fire fighter's union was apprised of the plans in 2007, and in subsequent negotiations with the Joint Labor Management Committee over the fire fighters' contract, the state panel decided that the position should be created by the city and not the union leadership, according to a letter from Leary to the board of aldermen.