Nov. 16—LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen voted Tuesday to start the process of finding a fire rescue chief.
Town Manager Amanda Allen has been acting fire chief since September. Prior to that, four fire chiefs have left since June 2021, though some were interim. The town does have an assistant chief.
"We need the chief to make decisions for the advancement of the Fire Department," Select Board Vice Chairman Ernie Souther said.
Prior to the vote, Chairman Jim Long said they had a veteran firefighter chief, Sherman Lahaie, come in as an outside consultant to do a review of the department. He went over procedures, equipment, trucks and the fire station. He also spoke to firefighters and more.
He previously served as fire chief in Lewiston and other departments in the state, including in the Bangor area.
Livermore Falls had hoped he would be willing to serve as interim fire chief, but he was not. However, he said he is willing to help the town get the fire department going again.
He felt the town needs to invest in equipment, Long said.
Lahaie believes that department can be rebuilt and needs person power, Souther said.
There is interest to maintain, revitalize and reinvigorate the department.
Resident Sheila Scanlan, a member of the Fire Substation Committee, raised concerns about people being fired.
"We need volunteers badly," she said. Maybe people could be disciplined, maybe suspended, if they do something wrong instead of being fired. I believe in second chances. It is what you do with a second chance that proves your character."
"One firefighter was fired, others resigned," Allen said.
Long said that currently there is very low turnout, zero to two firefighters who respond to calls.
"I think we need a fire chief," Long said.
Allen said she stopped looking for a fire chief when Lahaie came on board because selectmen were discussing what to do about the department.
People, especially young firefighters on the department, need leadership, Souther said.
There is a lot of value in the Fire Department, Selectman Will Kenniston said. A junior firefighter program could be introduced like Jay has, he said.
Resident Amanda Ricci said she had been very involved in the department but after a personal issue occurred she was dismissed after missing meetings.
She sent an email to administration, but said she did not receive a return email.
Allen said she did respond to the email.
A department's bylaws require certain attendance at meetings and fires.
"I would love to be part of the Fire Department," Ricci said. She has training as a Firefighter I and II and Firefighter I and II instructor, she said.
Ricci said they need someone to lead the department. Firefighters need to receive paychecks on time, she said.
What is not needed is pettiness and drama, Ricci said.
"They need to have leadership," she said.
It comes down to respecting and valuing volunteers, Scanlan said.
It was taking 12 minutes for fighters to arrive at the scene of a fire in East Livermore village, Scanlan said.
Residents voted 992-399 in November 2020 to authorize selectmen to spend up to $400,000 over 20 years to build a one-bay fire substation in the East Livermore section of town.
It has been two years and there still is no substation built, she said.
In April, the town bought a 200-by-300-foot property owned by Peter Morris on state Route 106 in Livermore Falls. It has since been surveyed and they are expected to move forward once the engineer is available.
Selectmen had tried to trade a piece of tax-acquired property for another property in the area in September 2021, but the town's property that had been bank-owned still had about three years left before anything could be done on it.
The town's attorney advised the board it couldn't be done.