MEDWAY, Maine — Town leaders are considering consolidating fire departments with East Millinocket, town Administrative Assistant Kathy Lee said Wednesday.
East Millinocket Fire Chief Les Brown will give a presentation to leaders of both towns on Jan. 9.
Consolidating the towns’ fire departments, Lee said, is among several options the Board of Selectmen is considering. Selectmen also may continue the hiring process they began when Medway Fire Chief John Lee — no relation to Kathy Lee — retired last month after more than 30 years, she said.
Six people have applied for the position, which offers a $4,000 annual stipend plus an hourly wage during training, Lee said.
The board appointed Adam Brackett as the town’s interim fire chief shortly after Chief Lee’s retirement. Kathy Lee declined to say whether Brackett is among the applicants. The application process “is on hold until we get done with East Millinocket,” Lee said.
Originally proposed by Selectman David Dickey, the idea has several benefits, East Millinocket and Medway leaders say. It could help alleviate chronic problems recruiting volunteer firefighters and offset East Millinocket’s problems recruiting younger members, according to minutes of the Nov. 28 meeting, one of three meetings at which selectmen discussed the idea.
East Millinocket now has about 20 volunteers — down from 35 several years ago, Brown said. Brown said he could see the idea saving money, but only with some equipment purchases. He would want to keep the departments in their present stations and keep their budgets separate, the minutes state.
Clint Linscott, chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen, said he loves the idea of consolidating departments and prefers to see more such efforts in the Katahdin region. East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket successfully combined recreation departments and a regional economic development board that disseminates about $75,000 annually to businesses in the region, he said. East Millinocket and Medway have combined police and schools, he added.
“We have had some really good successes with that,” Linscott said Wednesday.
But Medway firefighters told selectmen during their Dec. 5 meeting that they believed they exceeded East Millinocket in firefighter training and that communication problems had hampered both departments during several mutual aid efforts. Selectmen have encouraged the two departments to work out their differences, meeting minutes state.
Selectmen will meet Jan. 3 to discuss whether to continue the consolidation talks and prepare for the Jan. 9 meeting, Lee said.
Brown is on vacation this week, firefighters at the station said Wednesday.