EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Medway and East Millinocket leaders will continue to develop plans to consolidate fire services after a meeting Monday unearthed no deal-breaking problems.
Only four people out of the 33 selectmen, firefighters from both towns and residents who attended the nearly 1½-hour meeting at the town public safety building indicated in a straw poll that they thought the consolidation unworkable.
The rest thought it worthwhile, so Medway Selectman David Dickey and Clint Linscott, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen, said they would continue to investigate the idea, which some people have strong reservations about.
Both said they believed that the Katahdin region’s declining population and the need to reduce taxes and offset chronic volunteer firefighter shortages made following East Millinocket Fire Chief Les Brown’s recommendations worth investigating.
“[But] there is a lot of pride on both sides. Unless there is one chief, I don’t know if we can work together enough” to make consolidation workable, Dickey said. “[If] we enter into something with this that doesn’t work, we can pull away.”
Medway firefighters expressed opposition to the idea in early December. They said they believed they exceeded East Millinocket in firefighter training and that communication problems had hampered both departments during several mutual aid efforts.
Interim Medway Fire Chief Adam Brackett indicated Monday that the departments operate very differently and that friction between their command staffs, particularly with Brown, had led to estrangement.
“As far as the departments go, I feel we have always worked well together,” Brackett said. “But we are two different departments. We run off our policies and procedures. East Millinocket runs off of Les Brown.”
Brown has proposed that with East Millinocket’s several full-time firefighters and ambulance service, which Medway lacks, he would oversee both departments. Medway would gain an ambulance stationed in town, both departments would keep their equipment and East Millinocket would respond to all Medway calls.
East Millinocket, which has an aging staff, could recruit from Medway, which has many young members. Both departments would train together, thereby improving department coordination, Brown said.
Linscott doubts that consolidation would save much money, but said he believed the towns’ successful consolidation of recreation and education departments made this effort worthwhile.
“Nobody takes anything away from what the East Millinocket and Medway fire departments can do,” Dickey said. “There are these issues with policy and procedure and I think those things could be worked through. If we don’t do something now, I don’t think we ever will.”