REINSTATEMENT OF SUPERINTENDENT SMITH
SUPERINTENDENT Smith has been reinstated by a majority vote as head of the fire alarm and telegraph bureau of this city. Such a course on the part of Fire Commissioners Sheffield (president) and Sturgis calls for severe criticism. Gen. La Grange, the dissenting commissioner, washes his hands of all responsibility in the matter, on the ground that such a verdict maintains, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that the board holds to it that the city of New York possesses the best fire alarm system in the world—a system which needs no improvement, one which cannot be improved without stultifying the board. Yet the evidence adduced has proven that this city’s fire alarm system is simply rotten, and that its replacement by one up to-date in every respect is imperative. Commissioner La Grange truthfully points out that,if this system is continued as it exists, even for a limited time, it is a certainty that some failure in a box will one day result in a conflagration and loss of life and property which will open the eyes of the citizens and compel reform. A careful review of the opinion of Gen. La Grange, an abstract of which will be found elsewhere in this issue—cannot but raise the question as to the propriety of Mr. Smith’s reinstatement; and this all the more, since he himself admitted upon his trial that the fire alarm telegraph service is the
the most important adjunct of the fire department, and that a single failure may at any time cause loss of life and property.
Chief Bonner has likewise declared that “ in getting to a fire we count time by seconds ” and that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of having a fire alarm telegraph system as free from chance of failure as human skill and faithfulness can make it; and that New York, on account of the vast property interests at stake is entitled to the best fire alarm system in the world. Add to this the statement of Mr. Purroy, a former fire commissioner, that the “loss of a single second in getting to a fire tells terribly against its extinguishment,” and it will be seen that Superintendent Smith has not shown himself to be the right man in the right place. He has not even done the best with the means at his disposal—yet all his demands seem to have been met promptly and ungrudgingly by the board—but, whether from ignorance or apathetic carelessness, he has failed to understand that New York’s system of fire alarm telegraph is not only antiquated and obsolete, but also unreliable,because of its inherent defects, which he either did not or could not discover or remedy. A study of the evidence shows that Superintendent Smith seems to have placed himself (doubtless with the best intentions) in the hands of Mr. Frederick Pearce, so far as concerned the supplying of fire alarm boxes and appliances, and of Mr. George L. Wiley,the manager of the Standard Company, so far as concerned the installation of an underground cable system. But, as Commissioner La Grange says: in all financial dealings the interests of Pearce and Wiley were adverse to the interests of the city, which appears to have been without a qualified representative in those transactions. If the superintendent did as well ashecould do, he did not do as well as ought to have been done for the city. Wejdare not let any other subordinate do as he is proven to have done in buying for his bureau.
We would submit that in such matters, if buying is to be done for any city bureau, no suspicion of favoritism or jobbery should attach to the transaction. We do not accuse Superintendent Smith of any corrupt practices. All we insist upon is that, in the face of the evidence brought forward and not refuted, he is clearly not the right man in the right place, and would suggest, as the best means of getting out of the difficulty arising from his reinstatement, that he gracefully step down and out, leaving his office to be filled by an up-todate electrician.