PIEDMONT -- It's a tale of two cities -- with a dilemma.

Piedmont Fire Chief Ed Tubbs announced Jan. 3 he is retiring in May. Piedmont will not only lose their chief, but the city of Albany as well.

Tubbs was hired by Piedmont in August, 2010 to replace the retiring John Speakman. About eight months after that, Piedmont approached Tubbs with the concept of covering two cities as fire chief, to which he agreed. Albany's chief had left, and the two cities could save money by sharing Tubbs' time.

Albany would pay Piedmont $135,985 per year for Tubbs' services. In April, 2012, Tubbs agreed to the dual duty for two more years. Often, two smaller cities will share a fire or police chief for cost savings.

Now the hunt is on for a new chief. But will he or she be receptive to the idea of serving two cities?

"We are impacted by this retirement how to proceed with Albany." City Administrator Geoff Grote said at Monday night's council meeting.

Mayor John Chiang noted that serving two cities simultaneously could diminish the applicant pool for the job.

"We need to design a process for candidates we can bring forward," Grote said.

Piedmont still has an agreement with Albany for a shared chief. Piedmont has 90 days to notify Albany if the agreement will be terminated. Should Piedmont hire a fire chief, then wait a few months before approaching the person about dual duty like they did with Tubbs? What would Albany do meanwhile? Should the two cities' agreement be terminated, then restruck? These and other questions hang in the air.

The council on Monday approved spending about $23,000 to hire recruiters Bob Murray & Associates to begin the search for a new fire chief. Murray was used to find a new police chief for Piedmont.

Grote was to confer on Wednesday with Albany City Manager Beth Pollard on how to proceed. He will update the council at their Jan. 22 meeting. If Piedmont continues their relationship with Albany, Albany would be included in candidate interviews, Grote said.

Tubbs said in a statement he has enjoyed his time in Piedmont and will miss his staff, who were not only partners, but friends. Tubbs has about 30 years in fire service, including his time at Piedmont. He served as assistant fire chief for the city of Dixon, and earlier as fire captain for the city of Davis.

"We will keep our options open and go forward with eyes open," Grote said.

---