September 20, 2018
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Struggling Maine town votes to keep its fire department

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Medway firefighters, seen here fighting a fire at a town restaurant in 2016, will keep going after residents rejected an effort to replace them with East Millinocket firefighters.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

Medway will keep its fire department despite a proposal to pay East Millinocket for firefighters.

The Medway Board of Selectmen voted 3-1-1 on Monday to hire interim Fire Chief Aaron Lee as the town’s fire chief and keep the department intact, said town administrative assistant Kathy Lee, who is Aaron Lee’s mother-in-law.

A chronic shortage of firefighters — and a proposal from nearby Katahdin region town of East Millinocket — motivated selectmen to consider eliminating the town’s fire service, Lee said.

“At one point, back when the [paper] mills were running, you could have 20-plus people in your departments. Now you have 10,” Lee said Tuesday.

East Millinocket’s mill closed in February 2014 after its owner listed more than 1,000 creditors and at least $50 million in debts. Millinocket’s mill shut down in September 2008. Both mills employed more than 500 people. Their loss had a big impact on neighboring Medway.

Residents at a special Medway town meeting voted 37-5 on March 27 to reject East Millinocket’s proposal to provide firefighters for Medway coverage at an annual cost of $80,600.

The proposal would have entailed having paid firefighters provide eight-hour coverage at the Medway fire station seven days a week. With Medway’s total fire department budget at $65,000, voters likely believed that continuing their department, with Aaron Lee’s commitment, was worth it, Kathy Lee said.

The town’s population is 1,336, Lee said.

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