LINCOLN, Maine — Fire Chief Phil Dawson abruptly resigned on Wednesday because of what he described as concerns about his health and a dispute with a town official over a possible conflict of interest.
“I am tired of the bull,” the 57-year-old Dawson said Wednesday. “This isn’t worth the battle of going on and fighting one thing after another. I would like to get into retirement and enjoy it while I still have my health.”
Interim Town Manager William Lawrence announced on Tuesday that Dawson had been placed on administrative leave with pay. On Wednesday, Dawson said he retired effective immediately because Lawrence disliked Dawson’s recent discussions with Millinocket Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte about placing a Millinocket ambulance at Howland’s fire station.
Dawson is also the Howland Fire Department’s chief and a member of the Penobscot Valley Hospital board of directors, he said.
“It was construed that I was negotiating a service away from Lincoln,” Dawson said. “The intent was not to negotiate away from the Lincoln-East Millinocket consortium but to provide a service to Howland and taxpayers from the Greater Howland area.”
Lawrence issued a brief email statement on Wednesday saying that Dawson had resigned his position effective immediately. Lawrence declined further comment.
Officials from PVH, East Millinocket Fire Department and Lincoln announced this week that East Millinocket will station two ambulances at the Lincoln Public Safety Building starting in July, when the hospital discontinues its ambulance service. East Millinocket will handle the bulk of PVH transfers and emergency calls.
“The intention wasn’t to directly compete with them. It was just to survive and share some of the transfers so that we could maintain crew skills and interest,” Dawson added.
Email and telephone attempts to reach Lawrence on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Lincoln Town Council Chairman Steve Clay also declined to comment.
A retired state police trooper, Dawson said he earned about $38,000 annually from Lincoln, plus a reimbursement for not needing health care benefits.
Dawson said he will continue as Howland’s chief and as a member of the hospital board. He said he abstained from board votes on the service transfer.
Dawson said he was clear in all of his dealings regarding who he was representing. Turcotte agreed.
“In the times that we have spoken it was more to discuss how do we enhance the quality of service for the region. There were no discussions on any particular department,” Turcotte said. “I think he is a standup guy. He is trying to do the right thing and I will miss working with him.”
Conversations between Howland and Millinocket are in very early stages, Turcotte said. Since becoming Millinocket’s fire chief in November, Turcotte has said that one of his goals is to increase Millinocket’s revenue by expanding its ambulance service.
Under the deal with Lincoln, East Millinocket Fire Chief Les Brown has said that East Millinocket would provide emergency medical technicians and Lincoln would provide drivers, with East Millinocket paying for four hours of overtime to fill in when both ambulances are handling emergencies.
East Millinocket would pay Lincoln $75 per call. About $90,000 would be generated for Lincoln annually with 1,200 calls and $112,500 would come from 1,500 calls.