NORTH ADAMS -- The city's fire and police directors are now in charge of their respective departments. Mayor Richard J. Alcombright announced Friday that he has suspended the search for a new Public Safety Commissioner.
Commissioner E. John Morocco, who retired June 30, 2011, but has remained in the position on a part-time basis during the city's search process that included a lengthy discussion about the structure of the public safety department, will end his tenure Sept. 30.
"I've been married to position because it was a great management reporting position," Alcombright said Friday. "However, in no way am I going to settle just to have someone to fill it. After completing the search process, I sat down with Administrative Officer Michael Canales and with Commissioner Morocco. We felt that it is apparent that we have two very experienced directors who will be able to continue to manage our police and fire services."
He added, "Fire Director Steve Meranti and Police Director Michael Cozzaglio will assume full responsibility for their respective departments effective immediately."
Meranti and Cozzaglio will report to the mayor, while the building and health departments will report to Canales.
Under state law, Morocco was originally slated to retire on his 65th birthday in 2010, but the state Legislature granted the city a two-year extension, allowing him to remain in the position. In 2011, amidst economic hardship
The city's search committee received 17 applications for the position, narrowing the field down to seven applicants.
"Five of those applicants accepted interviews, and from there, we had further conversations with two finalists, who subsequently withdrew their applications for different reasons," Alcombright said. "Over the next week, Morocco will meet with the two directors to go over some final things with them and to discuss what's out there, pending on his desk."
Last year, the City Council's Public Safety Committee held several meetings to discuss the department's structure and whether or not the city should keep the commissioner structure. The committee ultimately recommended keeping the current structure, as opposed to returning to a structure with a police chief and a fire chief, at the request of Alcombright.
Alcombright said the current departmental structure will remain in place for the next three to six months, allowing time for him, with the aid of Canales, to study the results.
"At some point in the future, we may come to the council with a sample ordinance to solidify this structure, as the city's current ordinance calls for a public safety commissioner," the mayor said. "If, down the road when we look at the structure, it could remain with two departmental directors or it may call for two contracted chiefs. Right now, it will remain the same. What is important for the public to know is that these two gentlemen now have full authority over their departments and will report directly to me."
Alcombright added, "Over the last 21 2 years John Morocco has been incredibly reliable and professional. He has been a great asset during my first couple of years and I am sure that even though he will be off the job as of Oct. 1, he will be there in a heartbeat for us if we need to bounce ideas off of him."