Rumford fire chief appointment expected Thursday

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RUMFORD — The Board of Selectmen will vote on hiring a fire chief Thursday, but with only four members the possibility of a tie raises concerns for some.

Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said last month that the interview committee unanimously supports Chris A. Reed of Sparrow Bush, N.Y., one of five candidates interviewed for the job. He is fire and technical rescue instructor for the New York State Department of Homeland Security. 

Robert “Bob” Chase, who was promoted to Rumford fire chief in August 2009, resigned in December to accept the position of deputy chief with the Auburn Fire Department. He began his new job Jan. 2, but has stayed on part time through the transition process to handle administrative tasks.

Briggs and Chase, along with Deputy Chief Chris Bryant, Police Chief Stacy Carter, and Code Enforcement Officer Richard Coulombe, who was former deputy chief, are on the committee.

Members will make a recommendation to Briggs, who will make a recommendation to selectmen, according to board Chairman Chris Brennick’s interpretation of the 1951 charter. He issued a directive March 15 that the town manager can make all appointments, except the police and fire chiefs.

“We have a difference in the interpretation of the ordinance, and a difference of opinion,” Briggs said. “My opinion is that (selectmen) have authorized me to make those appointments.”

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Brennick said, “My directive is that fire and police personnel need to come before the board for approval, but they can’t come before they’re nominated. We can’t just go and appoint on our own.”

Briggs sees it differently.

“I don’t know what has happened in the past, but the board shouldn’t have a say in my appointments,” she said. “They should not. But they have, for police and fire.”

Brennick said, “You can see right here that we’re able to disagree, but we’re able to solve it through open dialogue. I didn’t hide this (directive) from L-J. I had a conversation with her before I did it.”

The resignation of board member Jim Theriault leaves four members to conduct business until the position is filled in June.

Brennick said he’s concerned the vote for fire chief could be a tie.

“I’m absolutely petrified of it,” he said, “especially with the fire chief candidate.”

“One of the reasons he’s petrified is because of what my reaction will be if it’s 2-2 on my appointment,” Briggs said.

Brennick likened his role as chairman to that of a quarterback.

“It’s like anything, especially in a 2-2 board, I have to shoulder a lot of responsibility for getting the ball down the field and scoring the touchdown,” he said. “I’ve got to find a way to get things done.”

Thursday’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in Rumford Falls Auditorium.

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