VEAZIE, Maine — Town councilors will continue deliberations about the future of fire protection in town during a meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The level of funding proposed, and voters approved, for the Veazie Fire Department was deemed insufficient to cover the cost of the department’s two full-time employees.
The Fire Department’s operating budget for last year totaled $235,354, Town Manager Mark Leonard said. The original budget proposed for this year was $231,767, but as a result of cuts made during budget deliberations and during a public hearing in May, the total was $171,767, he said.
As of the end of last month, roughly $128,600 remained, Leonard noted in a memo Friday to town councilors. He pegged the monthly operating cost at roughly $14,400, based on an average of expenditures for July through September.
In looking at the town’s options, town councilors solicited proposals from Bangor and Orono.
Both adjacent communities said they would take on Veazie’s current full-time Fire Department employees, Capt. Pete Metcalf and Lt. Nick Sirois, provided they pass a physical agility test, a “fit for duty” medical evaluation and become license paramedics within three years of being hired.
Proposals also included provisions for fire inspections and fire prevention programming for Veazie Community School students.
Town councilors also received three proposals from Veazie Fire Department members, namely Metcalf; senior members Lt. Scott Kigas, Lt. David Hjorth and Firefighter Scott Ireland; and members of the call department, comprised of part-time employees.
Leonard said he will present and recommend a sixth option during Tuesday night’s meeting — a two-pronged approach that he believes will enable the town to keep the Fire Department operating through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014. The proposal calls for:
— Reducing call back pay from the current automatic minimum of two hours of pay to one hour of pay, which was part of the call department’s proposal. Firefighters going to fire calls lasting more than an hour would be paid by the quarter hour.
— Reducing the pay period hours for the department’s two full time employees from the current average of 94.62 hours a week to the contractual minimum of 80 hours a week. Limiting pay to 40 hours a week for each full-time employee would save the town more than $7,500, Leonard estimates.
The town councilors did not present a plan for future fire and medical coverage when they reduce the fire department budget in the spring of this year, but they did direct town staff to seek proposals for fire protection and emergency medical services from Bangor and Orono.
In June, the council appointed a five-member panel comprised of town and fire department officials and residents to work through the options available to Veazie. Led by Town Councilor Karen Walker, the group met several times over the summer.