City Council appoints new Bloomfield fire chief
BLOOMFIELD — The Bloomfield City Council took time during its meeting tonight to recognize retiring Bloomfield Fire Department Chief George Duncan for his nearly 45 years with the Bloomfield Fire Department.
Shortly after, councilors approved appointing the assistant fire chief, John Mohler, as the department's new chief.
Councilors, along with Mayor Scott Eckstein, Bloomfield police Chief Randy Foster, Bloomfield firefighters and members of the community, took turns thanking Duncan for his service to the city.
Councilor Curtis Lynch said Duncan was instrumental in leading the fire department from basically nothing when he started as chief in 1976 to one of the best departments in the country.
Foster commended Duncan for forgoing a strong relationship between Bloomfield's fire and police departments.
"George and I worked really hard together to make our two departments work well together," Foster said in an interview.
Addressing the council, Duncan thanked the firefighters, volunteers and staff he worked with for their contributions to the community.
"There (are) a lot of people in the community that deserve a lot of accolades," Duncan said.
Mohler will take over the position after Duncan steps down Oct. 10.
"He’s done a fine job, and he’ll continue doing a fine job as chief," Duncan said during the meeting.
Mohler’s annual salary will be $85,000 with benefits, according to council paperwork.
After the meeting, Mohler said it was important to maintain the fire department's current level of service and keep the community safe.
Also tonight, councilors voted to extend the employment of three firefighters through March 2017.
The salaries of seven firefighters have been paid since 2014 through a federal grant that increased the number of paid firefighters at the city from three to 10.
It will cost about $17,000 a month to pay the three firefighters, and the money will come from a fire department construction fund, Duncan said. Once the grant expires on Oct. 8, the number of paid firefighters will drop from 10 to six.
At the end of the meeting, two Bloomfield residents asked councilors to reconsider their decision to cancel the city's Red Apple Transit agreement with the city of Farmington. The contract is set to end on Friday.
Earlier this month, the city of Bloomfield announced its plans to cancel its $12,000 annual contract to subsidize a bus route between Farmington to Bloomfield. The route operated three times a day Monday through Saturday.
Rosanne Nicks proposed a reduced route that would pick up residents in Bloomfield in the morning and return from Farmington in the evening. She said cancellation of the route well negatively impact residents with disabilities and students who attend San Juan College.
Alex Galindo echoed those sentiments.
"We’re talking about $12,000. I’m asking them to scrub through their budget to see if there is anything that we can allocate to find $12,000," he said in an interview.
City Manager Eric Strahl said the city has already made deep cuts to its budget and might have to make more if the economy does not improve.
Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.