SOCIAL CIRCLE -- After operating for several years with a combined public safety department that oversees both fire and police services, the city of Social Circle will now revert to a more traditional structure.
The City Council approved on Tuesday eliminating the position of the director of public safety that is currently held by Tom Fox, and instead will begin accepting applications for a separate police chief and fire chief.
"The Department of Public Safety was put in by (former) Mayor (James) Burgess and the city council about four or five years ago," Mayor Hal Dally said on Wednesday. "It's an idea that sounds good and that looks good on paper, but in actuality there is a different mindset between fireman and policemen, and it doesn't work the best in practice."
Dally said the council has been discussing this change for several months as part of its strategic planning process. He said the council had also considered the option of keeping the current structure with a director of public safety and hiring two lieutenants -- one for fire and one for police. In the end, though, the mayor said council members agreed that it would be better to have separate fire and police chiefs to give more supervision to each division.
Dally said that fire and police officers will still be able to cross-train if they would like in order to help each other during emergencies.
The mayor said the move will likely not have any impact on the city's budget, but should make the divisions operate more efficiently and smoothly.
The transition away from a combined Department of Public Safety is to be completed by Sept. 15.
As with all city employees -- except the city manager, city clerk and city attorney, which are appointed by the mayor and city council -- the city manager will oversee the hiring process and management of the new police chief and fire chief.
Dally said that while the director of public safety position is being eliminated, Fox can "absolutely apply" for the police chief position.
Fox was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday.