LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders will discuss replacing departing Town Manager William Lawrence and hiring back a firefighter laid off during the town’s latest budget deliberations when they meet Monday, officials said Thursday.
Town Council Chairman Steve Clay said he has two candidates in mind to temporarily replace Lawrence as interim town manager. Other councilors might have other candidates or different ideas, he said.
“We will bring up names and discuss them if the council wants to move forward with them,” Clay said Thursday. “We need leadership to keep a steady ship until we can go through the hiring process again. We also have to have [a town manager] by the town charter.”
Lawrence, 58, said July 2 that he would resign from his job, which pays $71,500, on July 11 to take a job in Florida. He had hopes of retiring in Florida, where his wife’s family resides, within a few years. Hired as Lincoln’s police chief in April 2011, Lawrence was named town manager at a salary of $70,000 in June 2013. He had served as interim manager twice before.
The agenda for the meeting on Monday lists a discussion of hiring a replacement for Lawrence and a possible interim appointment itself, which would take effect immediately. Clay said he did not know how long the interim appointment would last.
“I am not going to take a guess on that,” Clay said. “It depends on the number of applicants we will get [for Lawrence's full-time replacement]. When we ultimately hired Bill, we had done two rounds at that point and then put it back out there to see if we could get more candidates.”
The council also will listen to a presentation from the firefighters’ union on reinstating a cut firefighter’s position, the agenda states. The council originally planned to cut two positions from the Fire Department, but a vote to save one on June 16 passed 5-2. Councilors Dede Trask and Samuel Clay, Steve Clay’s brother, opposed.
Lawrence said the $3.68 million budget passed that night represents a reduction of about $580,000 from the town’s $4.3 million municipal services budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Lawrence called it an early projection but said the town’s mill rate should decline from $22.96 to $22.86 with the new budget.
With both firefighters’ positions eliminated, the town would have cut about $653,000 from this year’s budget, possibly resulting in a $22.58 mill rate, Lawrence said.
Lawrence reluctantly advocated for the new budget and its heavy cuts as a means to spare taxpayers the economic impact of the layoff of about 200 workers from Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC during the last fiscal year.
He said he also feared that delayed cuts would result in steep tax increases or heavier cuts later.
The union had warned that the cut positions would compromise public safety when the town’s ambulance was out of town on a call. During 16 shifts per month, or eight days and nights, when only one full-time firefighter was working, the station would be unmanned under the reduced staff, they said.
The Mattawamkeag Fire Department had to man the station Wednesday for about an hour, and the station was unmanned for about 20 minutes when one of the town ambulances took a woman from Penobscot Valley Hospital to Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor, said firefighter Kenneth Goslin, the union’s vice president.
“There were several tones for coverage for the station with no town firefighter response, so there was nobody here for coverage. Had a call come in during that time, there would have been nobody here to take that call,” Goslin said Thursday.
The 26-year-old Goslin said that firefighters’ health is risked under the new schedule, as firefighters will get called in at odd hours to handle coverage gaps. The odd hours threaten sleep, increase tension and disrupt sleep patterns already disrupted by a schedule that frequently has firefighters working day and night shifts in the same week, he said.
“When the mill shut down and we were doing confined space coverage at the mill, I had such sleep deprivation that it gave me Ventricular bigeminy,” Goslin said. The condition is a form of irregular heartbeat in which there is a continuous alternation of long and short heart beats. It is caused by sleep deprivation, he said.