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Ogdensburg City Hall at 330 Ford St., Ogdensburg. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

OGDENSBURG — City Council approved a resolution Monday to set a public hearing to consider a local law to require the chief of police to reside in the city.

The police chief position has been open since the May 30 retirement of former Chief Andrew D. Kennedy.

“The idea is that we would love for all our city employees to be residents of the city,” Deputy Mayor John A. Rishe said, “and, certainly the ones who are more critical in terms of public safety.”

An earlier draft of the resolution also required the fire chief to be a resident, Mr. Rishe said, but it is not allowed. New York State Public Officers Law exempts paid firefighters from residency laws.

The fire chief position has been open since Former Ogdensburg Fire Chief Michael Farrell retired in January. The duties of the fire chief are currently being fulfilled by interim City Manager Stephen P. Jellie.

“This resolution, to me,” Councilor Michael B. Powers said, “is making it more political than anything.”

Mr. Powers questioned how the residency rule would impact with Civil Service regulations and said he wanted to hear from the city attorney, who was not present at the meeting.

“Our council recommended this was legal, and could be moved forward,” Mr. Jellie said. “I sought a second legal opinion from another law firm and also got the same concurrence.”

Mr. Rishe said it was not an issue of politics.

“It just makes for a better employee if the Chief of Police actually resides in town and has neighbors in the community and understands what’s going on her versus living however many miles away,” Mr. Rishe said.

“I hope we get a lot of public input on this. I’d like to hear it.” Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said.

Residency rules and the city of Ogdensburg are not new, Mr. Skamperle said.

“One of the issues that keeps being brought up is, just because somebody lives in the city, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are most qualified,” Mr. Skamperle said.

Applicants don’t have to be residents. Mr. Rishe said, but the successful candidate must move into the city once hired. The city charter requires that the city manager be a resident.

The public hearing will be held at a special City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 24.

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St. Lawrence/Franklin County Editor

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