In my opinion: Following the rules…

| by Peter Bragdon |

I wanted to take the time to follow up on last night’s selectmen’s meeting when I spoke to them about following the rules, aka the Fire and Rescue Ordinance.

When I address the selectmen I try not to be negative.  I agree with a lot they are doing and see good progress. Last night unfortunately wasn’t so positive.

In 2003 an ordinance was adopted to govern our Fire and Rescue Department. There was a recent attempt to change Fire and Rescue to the Public Safety Department. This measure failed at the June special town meeting.  

In my opinion, by this measure failing it voids the job descriptions the management developed as the Public Safety Department. These were accepted with the intent that the new ordinance would pass. The department recently used these new descriptions to hire a Deputy Chief out of Lewiston. Still a clear violation of either the old or new job description as it says officers must have a maximum 15-minute response time to the center of town, which I was told is the Church Rd/Chandler Mill intersection.

The current ordinance also states the Fire and Rescue is two sections. The budget was combined this year and relabeled the Public Safety Department under the hopes of the new ordinance passing. Does this mean it should be two separate sections? According to the ordinance it does. 

Lastly on the topic of the ordinance is a vote of the town meeting combining the association funds of the Fire and Rescue to one account. I questioned this measure at the town meeting as it contradicted the existing ordinance. I was told that it would be okay if the new Public Safety Ordinance passed by July 1st. The new ordinance failed yet the funds were still combined.

The public wants a Fire and Rescue Department and they want to fully support it.  Unfortunately I have been told by more than one member of the department that it is failing significantly. It won’t be long before more staff will need to be added.  Recently some very cherished members stepped out, and there’s more to follow. I am told it’s not about the time needed, it’s about the atmosphere.  The budget took a huge hit to add staff this year and I suspect there will be more to come very soon.

It should be alarming why there wasn’t a line of our veteran firefighters attempting to be deputy chief. This is an honor that many want, but why did few apply? There is a steady decline in members at the Fire Rescue and it is very concerning. I am told there are safety issues and a member has to file a grievance to have them addressed! Throwing money at the Fire Department does not seem to be the answer here.

When I stood at the podium with an exhausted voice after a 110-hour week helping a friend at the fair my anger was not directed at the selectmen. It was that management is leading the selectmen down this road.   Like I said last night, whether the rules are right or wrong we need to follow them until they are changed. Now the selectmen are aware, so I want to see action.  The ordinances for the town can be found on the website.

I care deeply about New Gloucester or I wouldn’t put my time into serving.  Unfortunately, I hear there is a lot of negative in most all the departments in the town. It seems that we are heading for a meltdown.  I truly hope this can stop. We don’t need to get too big for our britches. Let’s be New Gloucester and just that! 

— Peter Bragdon

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