The city will soon fill the position of assistant fire chief, a post which has remained vacant since last June.
Mayor Toni Harp and Fire Chief Allyn Wright jointly endorsed the candidacy of Battalion Chief Matt Marcarelli as assistant chief of operations last week. Their nomination will be considered by the Board of Fire Commissioners — which has the power to appoint the assistant — at its next meeting, the date for which is yet to be announced. Since former Assistant Chief Ralph Black retired after 27 years of service last June, Battalion Chief Tom Neville has temporarily filled the position.
City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said Harp and Wright worked together closely throughout the eight-month process of selecting an assistant chief. Marcarelli was selected, Grotheer said, after Neville, the obvious candidate, withdrew from consideration.
“Matt’s businesslike approach to the job and all it entails will be a great benefit to me and to the entire department,” Wright said in a statement.
Wright specifically cited Marcarelli’s leadership in the city’s response to the recent snowstorms and his four and a half years of experience as a safety officer and director of training as evidence of his readiness for the appointment to assistant chief. As battalion chief, Marcarelli’s responsibilities included overseeing the hiring of new employees and managing the department’s operating budget.
“I have great confidence in Battalion Chief Marcarelli’s ability to meet the new responsibilities he’d face as assistant chief, and I will encourage the fire commissioners to consider this recommendation favorably,” Harp said.
Of the five candidates who took the promotional exam last month, Marcarelli scored the highest, according to the New Haven Independent.
As assistant chief, Marcarelli will earn $104,471 per year, according to the city budget, a salary that has stayed constant for at least the last two fiscal years.
The Fire Department has encountered numerous difficulties in the last decade. Disputes between the fire union and the city over the weighting of promotional exams — a dispute that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court — led to a lack of hiring. Last October, a third of the department’s 370 positions were empty.
Overtime has also proved a problem, with costs ballooning in recent years. For fiscal year 2015, total overtime costs are projected at $8.5 million — but the city has only budgeted $3.9 million. City officials said they hope that, once the pace of hiring picks up at the department, overtime costs will begin to go down.
Last October, the city and fire union signed a new contract that both sides agreed would lead to more hiring, lower overtime costs and hopefully create a new era in relations between the entities. Two weeks after the contract’s approval, Harp appointed an independent investigator to evaluate the state of the department.
Fire union president Jimmy Kottage declined to comment on Marcarelli’s appointment.
Correction: Feb. 16
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Battalion Chief Tom Neville’s name as Tom Newville.