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Lincoln Charter Twp. FD starts over after chief leaves

LINCOLN CHARTER TWP., Mich. -- After just 11 months on the job, Lincoln Charter Township’s first full-time fire chief has left. But even though getting him cost taxpayers around $10,000, local officials say it was a worthwhile investment.

“Tutko wanted to be here five to six years and then retire,” said Brandon Chiarello, the new assistant chief and administrator for the Lincoln Charter Twp. Fire Department. “So he was definitely not planning on leaving us like he did. Unfortunately he left, but he didn’t leave us high and dry. He has a lot of good plans still in place today here.”

Tutko submitted a letter on November 13 saying he would retire as the township’s first-ever full-time fire chief on November 26 – just 11 months after taking the job.

“This has not been an easy decision,” the letter reads, “but is one that is what is best for my family.”

“It was due to family issues that he certainly did not anticipate occurring when he accepted the position,” said Dick Stauffer, the township supervisor.

Tutko was hired after the township paid a consultant between $10,000 and $12,000 in 2016 to figure out how to make the fire department more effective.

In this ABC57 report from last December, Stauffer said the consultant’s findings were clear.

“He came back with the conclusion that we do need a full-time chief,” Stauffer had said.

But 11 months later, there no longer is one; despite the thousands of taxpayer dollars spent.

When asked what he would say to people who might think the money spent on the consultant was a waste because things are back to square one, Stauffer said that’s not the case.

“I think that the value that we received from that study and from the recruitment of, really, a good, qualified fire chief has been money very well spent,” he said.

Tutko did leave a transition plan that the township is embracing.

Scott Wiederwax has been promoted to part-time chief and will focus on long-range planning for the department.

And Chiarello is now the assistant chief and full-time administrator. He oversees the day-to-day operations at the station.

Chiarello said morale is high at the department, despite the year of changes.

And he thinks the consultant and Tutko were still worth bringing in.

“I don’t think it went to waste at all,” Chiarello said. “They still found out that they needed a full-time person here, whether it was labeled a chief or administrator – still needed a full-time person here to make the department run effectively. And so far, we haven’t missed a beat.”

Tutko did accomplish two big things in his 11 months on the job:

He created a new fire inspection program that is now being run by Chiarello.

And he reached an agreement for Lincoln Charter Township’s fire department to work with the city of St. Joe’s fire department so they could respond to fires together.

The salary Tutko was being paid is now being split between Chiarello and Wiederwax.

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