ROXBURY – Once again, Roxbury is advertising for a fire chief. But unlike two years ago when the entire department mutinied and quit more than once after their chief of 15 years was forced to resign, Town Clerk Tina Howard said she believes the current force will stay intact.
At a meeting last month, fire Chief Jim Theriault told selectmen he would resign, effective July 1. Theriault of Roxbury, who is also Mexico’s police chief, did not return calls on Wednesday.
“There was no controversy, but I was kind of surprised when he resigned,” Selectman Alan Hodgkins said by phone Wednesday evening from his Roxbury home. “He said he was just too busy with his police chief job, with the (Mexico-Rumford) Lions Club, of which he’s the president, and his new program with teenagers. He is a busy man just with his police role and, this (fire chief job) is a small position with a lot of headache in a small rural town.”
Hodgkins was talking about the Mexico Police Explorers program for youngsters and their parents who want to learn about police work while gaining leadership and community service skills.
Theriault and his wife Mary also own and run Silver Lake Campground at Roxbury Pond in Roxbury village.
At a special board meeting on Nov. 23, 2005, selectmen appointed Theriault as fire chief. His predecessor, Gordon Touchette, was forced to resign during selectmen squabbles with the fire department that spring, then, was reappointed before retiring in December 2005 after a 50-year firefighting career, most of it in New Jersey.
Like Touchette, Theriault also frequently clashed with selectmen while trying to build Roxbury’s fire department and crew up to complement its 2006 pumper-tanker firetruck. The truck was bought new with a $154,800 Homeland Security grant and a town match of $17,200.
Theriault finished out Touchette’s appointment from November through February. The board reappointed him as fire chief in March 2006.
He continued to clash with selectmen over department needs, but the board again reappointed Theriault to another one-year term at town meeting in March 2007.
In other business, property owners will soon get new tax bills if they haven’t already.
Howard said that although Roxbury’s tax rate dropped from $16.50 to $15.90 per $1,000 valuation, most taxpayers will see an increase.
“The town valuation went up almost $5 million. That was a big hit. Our county tax went up, (SAD 43) school taxes went up, everybody wants a piece of the pie,” she said.
Roxbury’s valuation jumped from $36,850,000 in 2006 to $41,400,000 this year. Additionally, the town’s tax ratio, which is based on real estate and home sales, dropped from 77 percent to 65 percent, meaning the town needs to complete a revaluation, otherwise it will continue to get less and less money from the state in revenue sharing and tree growth.
The town has 384 year-round residents, but they haven’t raised any money for a revaluation, which Howard says will cost more than $60,000.
“We don’t have industry here, so, everything is on the backs of homeowners. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is,” she added.