SHAMOKIN - City council will explore extending the residency requirements for fire chiefs beyond Shamokin's borders.

A 4-1 vote authorized solicitor Frank J. Konopka to work on the first draft of a proposed ordinance amendment that would allow members of the Shamokin Fire Bureau who live n Coal Township to be eligible for nomination to become a fire chief.

It would also establish an application process for the chiefs positions, eliminating the current rotation format.

Existing ordinance restricts all candidates to those who reside in Shamokin, according to Councilman R. Craig Rhoades. They're nominated on a rotating basis among the six fire companies.

Robert Wolfe is the current fire chief and is in the second year of a two-year term. John Klembara is the assistant chief, Jason Zimmerman the deputy chief and Bruce Rogers the battalion chief - all two-year posts.

Rhoades, Shamokin's public safety director, said during Monday's council meeting that the rotation format is failing as "companies have been skipping because they do not have a qualified candidate" to nominate.

Under Rhoades' proposal, nominees who apply to become a chief must be vetted and approved by the Shamokin Fire Bureau before being recommended to city council, which would make the final decision.

If approved, they would still be required to begin as a battalion chief and work up the ladder to become fire chief.

Rhoades' motion during Monday's council meeting wasn't listed on the agenda and it was initially met with reluctance.

"I'd like to have additional time to really understand it," said Councilwoman Barbara Moyer.

"What I'm asking is to have the solicitor prepare the ordinance. Once we have the ordinance in front of us then we can resolve any questions that come up at that point," Rhoades said. "It's not voting on the ordinance itself."

Councilman Charlie Verano asked about the effect on the current chief, a detail left unexplained during the meeting.

Not a volunteer fireman himself, Councilman Dave Kinder sought clarification on the basics of the nominating process.

Mayor William D. Milbrand cast the dissenting vote as he believes the chiefs should be Shamokin residents.

The existing and proposed residency requirements are more restrictive than what's in place for the city's police officers. As part of the latest collective bargaining agreement, police officers are allowed to live within 10 "air miles" of Shamokin.