Roque Bluffs, Machias reach fire coverage agreement after accusations of insults

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted April 25, 2013, at 1:44 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — After more than a month of innuendo and what Roque Bluffs Selectman Lisa Hanscom called outright insults, the Machias Board of Selectmen apologized for any misunderstanding and Wednesday night signed a mutual aid fire agreement with the small coastal community.

“We were very insulted,” Hanscom told the Machias selectmen.

The flap between the two communities began last month when a mutual aid agreement between Machias and Roque Bluffs came before Machias selectmen. Roque Bluffs officials wanted the agreement as part of a drive to lower residents’ insurance rates. At the time, the Machias board was not sure that Roque Bluffs was an organized fire department, instead believing that they operated under Jonesboro’s certification.

In discussing the issue in early March, Machias Town Manager Chris Loughlin referred to the Roque Bluffs substation as “one antiquated truck and a couple of firefighters” and the board did not sign the agreement.

Machias once provided all fire protection for its neighbor but Roque Bluffs felt the cost was too high and opted to align with Jonesboro several years ago.

“Now you want mutual aid from us,” Board Chairman Aubrey “Skip” Carter said Wednesday.

“Are you holding a grudge?” Hanscom asked. “Roque Bluffs is only doing what is best for its people.”

Hanscom explained this week that Roque Bluffs is in a unique situation since the town owns all its fire equipment — a pumper, a tanker and a brush truck — and its fire station, but all its firefighters operate under Jonesboro’s certification and Jonesboro Chief Mike Schoppee. She said of the 31 firefighters who serve both communities, 10 are Roque Bluffs residents.

“This is a very unique situation and we had to go all the way to Washington, D.C., to handle this,” Hanscom said.

Loughlin admitted to Roque Bluffs officials that he had made the disparaging remarks and Carter told Hanscom, “We apologize for anything that was said that upset you.”

Carter said that because Machias has a mutual aid agreement with Jonesboro, fire protection response to Roque Bluffs was never in question.

“We need to put this behind us,” Carter said.

In other business, the board received no bids for a tax-acquired mobile home and opted to seek options for its removal, particularly since the town is responsible for lot rental fees. Carter asked Loughlin to try to find the previous owner, whose belongings remain in the trailer, to clear the home out before it is removed.

The board also provided a liquor license to Skywalkers’ Bar and Grill, which will be located in the former Eastland Realty building.

Owner John Parker said he hopes to open by late June and the facility will have a full kitchen, offer live music once or twice a month and will seat 46 people. He described it as “an upscale place to socialize” and said renovations have already begun on the building. Six jobs will be created, he said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/25/news/down-east/roque-bluffs-machias-reach-fire-coverage-agreement-after-accusations-of-insults/ printed on December 18, 2014