ST. ALBANS, Maine — It took only 23 voters and 19 minutes for residents here to absorb the St. Albans Volunteer Fire Department as a municipal entity.
There was little discussion and no opposition as Wednesday night’s small gathering breezed through three warrant articles related to the changeover. However, the process won’t be complete until the department, which approved the idea last month, submits paperwork to the Secretary of State’s Office dissolving itself as a non-profit corporate entity.
Triggering the most discussion was the department’s ability to spend money without waiting for approval from the town. Under the new agreement, the department’s officers need only to request a check at the town office — which according to Town Manager Rhonda Stark is what has been happening anyway.
“The town is already doing all the department’s payroll,” said Stark. “It’s being handled as a municipal fire department, and it’s not.”
The reason for the switch, according to Stark, is that it allows the department to be covered under the town’s insurance policies. Firefighters already have been covered by the town when fighting fires and training, but not when performing community service or holding fundraisers.
An official with the Maine Fire Chiefs Association said this week that many volunteer departments in Maine are run as nonprofit corporations but an increasing number of them are opting to become municipal departments as insurance premiums rise and it becomes more difficult to attract firefighters.