Springfield City Council's public health and safety subcommittee has approved a proposal by Mayor Domenic Sarno to lower the educational requirements for the position of fire commissioner.
It's been an ongoing debate inside City Hall.
Currently the position calls for a master's degree and seven years as a deputy chief.
Interim Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant does not have those specific requirements.
The mayor wants to change that to an associate's degree.
Conant, a 25-year fire department veteran and the interim fire commissioner, sat across from councilors with the public health and safety committee defending his role as fire commissioner at a Tuesday meeting.
"I have no political connections, I did not ask for this, the mayor asked me to step up to the plate and do this job and that's all I did," Conant said.
Sarno says his experience earns him the top rank in the department.
After some heated discussion, the Springfield City Council Public Health and Safety Subcommittee voted to push that proposal to the full council.
"At the end of the day we want to make sure we have the very best fire commissioner in place and certainly the acting commissioner has done a great job in the time he's been in there as well," said Tom Ashe, city council member and chair of the committee.
On one side, some city councilors argue that degrees don't put out fires.
And Springfield's current requirement of a master's degree is far higher than surrounding cities.
Before the control board changed the requirements several years ago, it was just a high school graduate requirement.
"It went very swiftly from requirements being a high school requirement to all of a sudden being a master's requirement with seven years as a deputy, which is very hard to meet those standards," Ashe said.
Councilors on the other side of the issue say lowering the educational standards could set a dangerous precedent across the city.
"To change or lower those standards... just to me sends up red flags," said City Council Member Bud Williams.
The city council will vote on the issue. If they don't vote to lower the requirements, there could be a nationwide search for the next commissioner.
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