SOMERSET — Fire Chief Scott Jepson said last Wednesday's selectmen's meeting was an historic event for the Somerset Police Department.
At that meeting, five lieutenants were promoted to captains and two firefighters were promoted to lieutenants after funding to support those promotions was approved at a Special Town Meeting on Sept. 30.
Chief Jepson said he had talked to retired fire chief Stephen Rivard about making such a change in ranks at the Fire Department a long time ago. He said the change in the structure of the department will benefit the department, its members and the taxpayers.
Lieutenants who were promoted to captains included Rene Thibault, Shawn Kerrigan, Jason Phillips, Scott Sylvester and Paul Thibault. Firefighter/paramedics who were promoted to lieutenants included John Soares and Todd Arruda. Sylvester could not be at the meeting where the promotions were approved because he was dealing with calls at the Fire Department.
"I'm so proud of all these guys," Chief Jepson said. "The amount of talent we have in this department is extraordinary."
Chief Jepson said the promotions will streamline the operations at the Fire Department. He said the duties of the emergency medical services officer at the department will be split up among three of the department's personnel. He said that position is the most time consuming in the Fire Department.
With the promotions, Chief Jepson said the firefighter/paramedics would have more responsibilities and higher salaries.
"It's a win, win all the way around," Chief Jepson said.
Chief Jepson said the new ranks also open up more opportunities for firefighters to be promoted in the future. Before, he said they may have had to wait as long as 15 years before a position opened up for them to be promoted. Chief Jepson said the older members of the Fire Department can train and teach the younger firefighter/paramedics so they will be ready to advance in the department. He said the selectmen should not have to go outside the department to fill the fire chief's job when he retires.
"Whoever is going to be in my spot is in the room tonight," Chief Jepson said.
Chief Jepson said the seven members of the Fire Department who were promoted last week have roughly 140 years of combined experience.
"It's a lot," Chief Jepson said. "It's going to help myself and the deputy with the workload."
Selectman Steve Moniz said he never understood the rank structure of the Fire Department before and was very happy that he could be part of the historic meeting where the promotions were made. He said he was glad that Rivard could be at the meeting to see the promotions take place.
Selectman Holly McNamara said Somerset firefighters are the best. She said she has never had any complaints about them. McNamara said the firefighters are always caring and welcoming and get back to her when she has a question.
McNamara said last week's promotions help the morale, structure and productivity of the Fire Department.
Selectman David Berube said the promotions benefit the community and said everyone is working together.
Moniz, as he has said in the past, said they have to thank the families of the firefighters who support them to let them protect the public, sometimes while people are sleeping.
"The men that serve this community are fantastic at what they do," Moniz said.
Chief Jepson said the public has no idea what the firefighter/paramedics do everyday because they don't see it and a lot of it does not get reported in the press. He said he was like a proud father as the promotions were made last week. Moniz said he has ridden with firefighter/paramedics for the public safety show he does for Somerset Access Television and is trying to get what they do out for people to see.
Chief Jepson said that pinning ceremonies will be done for the seven firefighter/paramedics who were promoted last week.
A badge pinning was done at last week's meeting for a firefighter that was promoted to lieutenant which was not related to the collective bargaining agreement change with the town. The selectmen had already approved of the promotion of firefighter/paramedic Aaron Fisher to lieutenant. Chief Jepson said Fisher had scored the highest on the lieutenant's exam.
Fisher said he has had great firefighter/paramedics working with him. He said their jobs are tough on families, but he has received support from his wife Carolyn and parents. He said Chief Jepson has been a great leader of the department.