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Oregon Fire Chief Ed Ellis is hanging up his helmet after almost 44 years with the department, including almost four years as chief.
Council received his letter of resignation at last week’s committee of the whole meeting and is expected to accept it at today’s regular meeting. The chief’s last day would be March 7.
Mayor Mike Seferian said the city is looking for a replacement but is in no hurry because Assistant Fire Chief Paul Mullen can perform the chief’s duties until the appointment is made.
The mayor supported Mr. Ellis’ appointment, in May, 2010, to the post left vacant by the retirement of Bill Wilkins, because he believed Mr. Ellis had the most support within firefighter ranks.
At the time, Mr. Ellis was assistant district chief in Station 3. Before his promotion, the mayor and Administrator Mike Beazley solicited suggestions from 28 firefighters. The department was suffering from bickering and weak morale.
“Ed did what he was supposed to to do,” the mayor said, adding that Mr. Ellis’ tenure in the job, which pays $88,936, never was intended to exceed three or four years.
“There was an uneasiness in the department, and Ed was a well-liked person in the department,” Mr. Seferian said. “We thought that making him chief so he could make the department whole again was a good idea. I wish him well in his endeavors.”
Mr. Ellis, 65, started with the department as a volunteer firefighter May 26, 1969.
As chief, he said, he set out to improve response times and achieved at least partial success by building on permitting rescue units to go out of their districts on medical runs and expanding the practice of assigning paid, but normally on-call, firefighters to firehouses during bad weather in anticipation of emergencies.
With council approval, the department adopted its “soft billing” policy of charging insurance firms for EMS runs under his tenure.
“When I got the position, we were in the middle of budget cuts because of the economy,” Chief Ellis said.
Two of Chief Ellis’ sons followed him into the fire department: Mark, an engineer at Station 2, and Jeff, a lieutenant at Station 3; a son-in-law, Jerry Miller, is a firefighter at 2.
In other business last week, council held a short special meeting to approve a request for a variance for a communications tower at 4910 Wynnscape Dr., south of Cedar Point Road.
P&R Communications Service plans to install a 300-foot communications tower to be used, at least initially, for commercial applications such as two-way radios, although it could carry cellular phone signals, said Marty Malloy, P&R’s attorney.
The firm needed a variance to the 250-foot setback requirement from any street right-of-way because the lot is only 200 feet deep. It had obtained the variance but could not arrange financing for the tower’s construction before it expired.
David Reeves, president of P&R, said he hoped to install the tower this summer. Council approved the request unanimously, with members Joshua Hughes and Jim Seaman absent. In December, the planning commission unanimously recommended the variance’s approval.