Residents question board over potential Tilton chief firing
TILTON - A group of residents of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department fire district confronted the district's fire commission late Tuesday afternoon with complaints about the potential firing of Fire Chief Brad Ober over a residency requirement.
Ober, the former fire chief in Ashland, was hired by the district in 2010 with the understanding that he would move to the district by Jan. 2, 2013, said Pat Consentino, the chair of the Tilton Board of Selectmen.
But Ober has not moved from his home in Ashland, and his status as chief after Jan. 2 has come into question.
Commissioner Pat Clark has said the commission could grant Ober an extension or fire him, but said the fire commissioners have been advised not to talk about the issue because it involves personnel.
Ober, who was at the commission meeting, has said he will not comment on the situation.
Consentino said Ober has been trying to move to the district, but hasn't been able to sell his home in Ashland, which has been on the market for many months, she said.
She said the fire commissioners have not formally defined the boundaries of the fire district, and said Ober's commute on Interstate-93 each day is short.
She asked the commissioners if they realize that letting Ober go would cost the towns thousands of dollars in costs to find a new chief and would cost the fire department in morale.
Ober has done a great job, she said, and is appreciated by the people he serves.
"He was at the top of the list when we hired him, there have been no qualms about his performance, he has been tremendous in the area of public service," Consentino said.
She said the commissioners' refusal to speak publicly about the issue is "despicable."
"You are hiding behind the personnel rules," she said. "Are you doing anything about the possibility of not having a chief?"
Clark said the board would have time to deal with any repercussions of its decision in January.
Cynthia Reinartz, Tilton's town clerk and tax collector, also spoke in support of Ober.
"Sure, a conditional letter was signed (regarding residency), but we have invested a lot of money in him and I can't see losing a wonderful chief over this."
Resident Eric Pyra agreed.
"You'll be wasting my taxpayer dollars if you lose this chief. What's it going to cost to replace him?" Pyra asked.
Gretchen Wilder, a resident, disagreed.
"If I took a job as a truck driver and I signed a document requiring residency, and I didn't move, I'd be fired," she said.