NEW GLOUCESTER — Several Fire Department officers on Monday took selectmen to task for cutting money for officers in the 2018-19 budget.
“I earn $3,000 per year and use my own vehicle, spend 200 hours doing office work, attend meetings in surrounding towns and receive no mileage allowance and put in hours that don’t get billed,” Deputy Chief Roger Levasseur said. “There is liability we take on personally that could come to us by civil action.
“We’ve been cut off and we’re turning back (to taxpayers) money every year.”
Lt. Brian Chipman said the selectmen’s budget cut the stipend account by $3,500, which was restored last week by the Budget Committee’s final review.
“My primary job is to take a group of courageous people into a building who have the knowledge, experience, training and courage,” Chipman said. “By reducing the number of people who will take on the liability, you are hurting the department and the town.”
Capt. Scott Doyle, an 18-year member of the force, said he’s in charge of training, education, firefighting and ground supervision, and fire prevention to students, Scouts and businesses.
“It’s well worth you being educated,” Doyle said. “Come and visit us and show compassion and passion. It’s sad. I feel like the leadership doesn’t care. Talk about bias,” he said.
Firefighters receive a $15 stipend to attend a training session or a meeting and respond to a call, no matter the duration.
“We cut dollars, not positions,” Selectman Stephen Hathorne said. “We are striving hard to get you up with pay. We are well behind the eight ball and we don’t know what’s the third step” in the salary compensation plan.
Selectman Lenora Conger said, “Sounds more and more (like) we need a paid Fire Department.
Chairman Linda Chase said, “I value what you do and what you have to be. But, we need to know a reasonable idea of people based on calls and based on hours.”
In other business, Peter Bragdon, the only member of the Community Fair Committee, was urged to work on a date for the fair in 2019 through the Department of Parks and Recreation by April 3.
“I don’t want you to shut down the community fair. I will make it work,” he said.