Mayor, council praise retiring fire chief's years of service
NEWBURYPORT, Feb 12, 2013 (The Daily News of Newburyport - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Municipal leaders set aside business as usual for a few moments last night to honor fire Chief Stephen Cutter, who will retire Friday after 34 years of service.
Congratulations came at the end of the mayor's "state of the city" address, when Mayor Donna Holaday noted that Cutter will soon leave the department he has served since shortly after leaving high school. He has been chief for the last dozen years.
Holaday noted that Cutter comes from a long line of firefighters, including his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
She said that Cutter not only served the city but had done volunteer work in crews ranging from fighting wild blazes to assisting with emergency measures with the Sunday River Ski Patrol.
Holaday said that Cutter has served in numerous firefighting associations in the region, and has been a key factor in the training and professionalism of the department.
She even noted that he didn't miss a Yankee Homecoming fireworks display, at which he was present to ensure the safety of the thousands who come each year for the colorful evening event.
Holaday read a proclamation that said the city feels "gratitude and appreciation for a public servant who has provided years of care and protection to the community."
The mayor presented Cutter with a photographic display of firehouses where he has worked, including the station at the time of his first service, and the modern edifices now in use.
Following her reading of the proclamation, a capacity crowd in council chambers provided a sustained standing ovation.
"I don't know what to say," started Cutter, who seemed self-conscious that leaders were honoring him with a proclamation and a gift.
"But it's been an honor and a privilege to be a firefighter here, especially as chief. I want to thank my wife, Paula, and my brothers, who are here. I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve the city."
Holaday has created a screening committee to choose a new chief, and city officials have received 45 applications.
The search process could take several months, and Holaday said she is interviewing candidates to serve as interim chief.
It appears she is looking outside the community as well as perhaps at current officers in her effort to place an interim leader in the job shortly after Cutter's departure at the end of the week.
In other business, city officials sent to committee a report that proposes a street-light buyout program.
Members of the Public Utilities Committee have for the past year been looking into the viability of creating a management plan for street lights that would take advantage of a state law that permits municipalities to acquire their street lights from their local utility "for the net book value of the asset."
The city is currently paying about $234,000 per year to National Grid for "1,544 distributed street light and 127 non-distributed poles."
Municipal researches believe the city can save money by buying and maintaining its own system, rather than paying a utility.
Councilor Ari Herzog, who chairs the utilities committee, said a public information session will be held in coming weeks to discuss the attributes of changing the city's lighting system.
On a separate subject, during the period of the meeting that is called the "Good of the Order," Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. commended the public works crews for their significant efforts in plowing and removing snow.
Councilor Ed Cameron added that many residents, through volunteer effort, helped clear sidewalks and walkways.
"The city was able to have school today," he said, "and the city looks very good compared to other communities I have been to. City crews and residents did a very good job."
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