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Ricci to step down sooner

Andy Ouriel • Apr 7, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Sandusky Fire Chief Paul Ricci will step down next month, five months sooner than expected and smack in the middle of reorganization and manpower cuts in the fire department. Ricci told the Register he moved up his retirement date from October to May after the newspaper sought an update on his employment status.

“I have had a very rewarding career and look forward to my retirement years with my family” Ricci said.

Ricci, who submitted his resignation letter in January, previously told city commissioners his last day would be in October. He said the decision to move up the departure date was “personal,” and he declined to provide further comment.

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City commissioner Naomi Twine, who’s spearheading a selection process for a new fire chief that started about two months ago, said Ricci’s abrupt decision puts the city in a predicament.

She wanted to hire a new fire chief by mid-summer. That way, Ricci could work with his successor for several weeks before leaving.

Now, however, it appears a transitional period, easing a new chief into the role with some guidance from Ricci, won’t happen.

“We were hoping to have someone hired by July, at the latest,” Twine said. “We will now look at moving up that time frame. We still probably won’t have anyone hired prior to Chief Ricci’s departure”    

In one month, the fire department stands to lose its leader with no replacement in sight as it faces severe staffing cuts and service reductions.

In February, commissioners voted to approve a $16.3 million everyday operating budget, which included $1.1 million in reductions hitting fire services the hardest.

Among the fire cuts:

•Slash full-time staffing levels from 53 today to 49 in a month. This includes laying off three firefighters in these positions and eliminating one unfilled spot.

•Scale back on overtime, training and taxpayerfunded physicals.

•Close Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road near Toft Dairy from May to October, directly prolonging response times specifically for residents on Sandusky’s west side.

Ricci vowed to implement these tough cuts before leaving.

“In the coming weeks, I will have the unpleasant task of delivering layoff notices and closing a fire station,” Ricci said. “It is not a task that I take lightly, nor do I look forward to performing. Nonetheless, it is my responsibility as the fire chief to perform (these) tasks. I pray for a brighter future”

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