Rangeley board approves full-time fire chief for town

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RANGELEY — After an executive session Tuesday, selectmen unanimously voted to keep the fire chief’s position full time.

Ten members of Rangeley’s Fire and Rescue teams, including retiring Chief Rudy Davis, attended the meeting.

In a surprise move, board Chairman Gary Shaffer announced that the fire chief discussion would be moved to an executive session at the end of the meeting.

At least two board members said the move was inappropriate, considering the number of firefighters attending to join in the discussion.

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As the public began to leave, Municipal Clerk Ethna Thompson announced that the action was in direct violation of parliamentary procedure. However, the board went behind closed doors and members of Fire Department remained in the hallway to resume their seats at the end of the executive session.

Fire Capt. Dennis Marquis said firefighters had come to support the appointment of a full-time rather than part-time fire chief, and that town law says the board appoints the fire chief after hearing recommendations from the Fire Department.

“Farmington is the only department in the county to have a full-time chief,” Marquis said, “but Rangeley may be in second place for number of calls.”

As the meeting returned to public session, Selectman Nathan Nichols moved to change the fire chief to a full-time position, which department members supported vocally. Outgoing Chief Davis explained that the position entails more than the job description.

“I get calls every week to do inspections for insurance,” he said, “and at every parade and event in Rangeley my department is there the whole time. The job is 24/7 and you can’t take time off. In fact, the position is more than full time.”

Marquis added that the job is multi-regional and should therefore not be the appointment of the town manager, but should stay as the appointment of the board. 

Selectman Pam White thanked the chief, and two previous chiefs, for conferring with her about the job description, and asked Davis if he got reimbursed for private events.

Davis said the department gets nothing for patrolling events such as the Logging Day Parade and the Shriners’ Parade.

“It boils down to, how much community service does the community want to donate to these events?” he said.

The board then voted 5-0 for the full-time position, and said that it looked forward to hearing the Fire Department’s recommendations.

Earlier in the meeting, Steve Philbrick of the Sewer Committee announced that at their last meeting the committee voted 4-1 to appoint Ethna Thompson to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of John Cannizzaro. Kenneth Brackett was also in the running for the term, which expires on June 30, 2013. The board unanimously confirmed Thompson’s appointment.

A citizen’s letter asking for a moratorium on fuel depots in the town referred to a 30,000-gallon propane distribution tank that was approved in July and is under construction. It was noted that previously-approved construction was not under the board’s jurisdiction.

Discussing the approval of the Planning Department fee schedule, Chairman Shaffer said, “It is the consideration of the board that it would be neighborly to keep the current fees unchanged because of the economic climate.”

The board also noted that a $35 demolition fee was seldom assessed because it is not charged if people are replacing the demolished structure.

In other Fire Department-related news, a firetruck repayment balance of $6,395 from Rangeley Plantation has been in dispute since 2010.

Shaffer suggested that a meeting between the officials of the two districts might result in a compatible agreement.

Rangeley and Oxford County have not had an agreement for fire services since the end of June. Rangeley has sent the standard contract, but county commissioners say they have to use their own. The board tabled any action pending further research into the situation.

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