2018-01-12 / Community

Kennebunkport fire services being reviewed

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — Following the death of Kenneunkport Fire Chief Allan Moir on Dec. 24, the town is assessing the full range, and future structure, of fire services in town.

Moir moved to Maine in 1981 when he was hired at the Kennebunkport Wastewater Department and was director of that operation as well at the time of his death, at age 63, to cancer. Moir had been fire chief since 2010.

It is not the only recent loss for the fire department. On Oct. 26, Paul Chisholm, assistant chief of the Goose Rocks Beach Fire Company, one of three divisions within the town’s volunteer department, also passed away.

“At that time we looked the organizational structure of the fire department and whether we actually need an assistant chief,” Town Manager Laurie Smith said in a Jan. 5 interview.

Kennebunkport has a chief, an assistant chief, and three division chiefs in its operations division, all stipended positions, as well as one full-time salaried employee, Dick Stedman, who acts as fire administrator. Following Moir’s death, Division Chief Scott Lantagne, who works fulltime for the town’s public works department, has stepped up as acting operations chief o the 60-member department.

At the time of Chisholm’s death, Smith said, she and Moir agreed the assistant chief position should remain. However, the spot has not year been filled, leaving two vacancies.

“We were getting ready to advertise that in the middle of November when his [Moir’s] health declined,” Smith said. “It does not make sense to hire an assistant chief with the chief should have a role in selecting that.

“Our plan now is to take a little time to again examine the organizational structure of the department and then make a determination about the best way to move forward,” Smith said. “What we are looking at is what makes the best sense moving forward. The town has had both full-time and part-time chiefs in the past. So, this is a chance to sit and reflect about what makes the most sense moving forward, before we take action.”

Smith said changes could involve whether the assistant chief job remains, how many division chiefs and officers remain in the chain of command, who, if anyone, becomes a salaried employee of the town, and even how the administrative duties now covered by Stedman are handled.

“I’d say everything is up for discussion,” Smith said. “Our fire department is very team orientated and supportive. The offices have all stepped up and everybody is working in continuity to keep operations moving. The issue is just looking at where the department is moving forward.”

Smith said a decision may come sooner rather than later, possibly within the “the next few weeks.”

“It shouldn’t be a long drawn-out process,” she said, noting that what edits are made, if any, might involve selectmen, “if we end up talking wholesale changes.”

Meanwhile, with the town in the early stages of budgeting season, another division chief, Jim Burrows, has taken the lead on preparing the 2018-2019 operations budget request for the eight-person department, which manages sewer lines that run from Dock Square, through Cape Porpoise, and out to the beach.

Within the wastewater department, 30-year chief of operations Ron Taylor is overseeing day-to-day activities, with Public Works Director Michael Claus also involved. They are working together on the budget fiscal year 2019 presentation, although, as a fee-driven enterprise fund, that spending plan will be set sometime after the regular municipal budget is finalized.

However, with Taylor nearing retirement, wastewater also is subject to an eyeballing.

“We are taking a minute there as well to look at what we need going forward and what makes the most sense,” Smith said. “As with the fire department, we have good people in place who are familiar with the operations. We’re just trying to make a plan for going forward.

“I would say I’m more focused on fire first,” Smith said. “Once we get that set, then we’ll settle on wastewater.”

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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