During tough economic times, good decision-making is a must.
Unfortunately for Altoona taxpayers, City Manager Joe Weakland and Fire Chief Tim Hileman have made a very questionable decision.
With the city facing a $2.5 million operational deficit next year - half of which would be covered by a fund balance - and the uncertainty of what the Act 47 consultant will recommend to right the city's finances, we have a new deputy fire chief.
Weakland, upon Hileman's recommendation, appointed Mike Tofano as deputy chief. Tofano's salary will be $62,700.
Tofano, who was the department's fire inspector, may be very qualified for the job, but he's the right man at the wrong time for Altoona.
The city had been without a deputy fire chief since August when Hileman was appointed chief, upon the retirement of longtime Chief Reynold D. Santone Jr.
Hileman did an admirable job as deputy chief, but the position has been a luxury for the city department, having gone vacant for years before Hileman's promotion.
The city could have saved money by not promoting Tofano and keeping him in the fire inspector's slot. Any operational responsibilities the deputy chief would perform can be handled by the assistant chiefs.
Altoona needs a fire inspector to investigate fire causes and to inspect properties in coordination with the Codes and Inspections Department more than it does a deputy fire chief.
We agree with President Bryson Peterman of Local 299, International Association of Fire Fighters, that the position should not have been filled. We disagree with Peterman about adding to the rank-and-file at this time, also because of the projected deficit and the Act 47 uncertainty.
City Council, as the policy-making body, must immediately order both a hiring freeze and a freeze on filling vacant position until at least the Act 47 recommendations are made, voted upon and implemented.