RUMFORD – Pending annual town meeting voter
approval on Tuesday, June 9, the town may soon be without both a police
and fire chief.

Instead, it would have a public safety director charged with overseeing both departments simultaneously.

He or she would be paid $72,000 annually, a savings of $35,000 to $40,000.

At Monday night’s annual town meeting, Selectman Robert Cameron said the board decided to create the position to save money.

Due
to his previously cited administrative skills, police Chief Stacy
Carter has served as both police chief and interim public safety
officer for the past month after being appointed to the new position by
Town Manager Len Greaney and selectmen.

“I think this change is
an excellent and important opportunity not only to save money, but also
to become more efficient and effective,” Greaney said.

However,
part-time fire Chief Gary Wentzell – also the full-time fire chief in
Mexico – objected to the No. 2 amendment proposed under Article 43.

He
said he views the proposal as a further attempt to downsize the Fire
Department, which last year was reduced from a four-person shift to a
three-person shift.

Wentzell also asked residents who will view
taped coverage of the meeting on the local access television channel,
to vote it down.

“You still need a fire chief,” he said. “Somebody has to be responsible and take it when the (expletive) hits the fan.”

“This has been tried in 12 or 13 towns and, it’s failed in 9 or 10 towns,” he added.

Resident
Kevin Saisi echoed Wentzell’s comments, saying he didn’t believe police
Chief Stacy Carter had firefighter or fire department training.

Carlo
Puiia, who will be appointed town manager after annual town meeting
balloting on Tuesday, June 9, ends, asked Greaney if the position is
created, will the job be posted.

“I would assume that’s correct,” Greaney said.

The
amendment states that chiefs for each department or a public safety
officer overseeing both departments will be chosen by the town manager
with selectmen approval.

“It gives the town flexibility,” Puiia said of the proposal Tuesday morning.

Should
the measure be OK’d, Puiia said he wouldn’t automatically hire a public
safety officer. Instead, he intends to poll selectmen to determine how
best to proceed based on public response to the change and the voting
margin.

In other town meeting warrant article discussions from
Monday night, Greaney asked voters to approve the Finance Committee
recommendation of $790,309 for general government in Article 6 instead
of the selectmen recommendation of $795,708.

The committee,
Greaney said, budgeted his requested $50,000 for economic development;
selectmen cut it to $25,000. He said the additional amount is needed to
pursue strong economic development to grow the tax base.

Under
the police department budget in Article 8, Chief Carter asked residents
to choose the committee’s recommendation of $814,230 instead of the
selectmen’s choice of $803,430.

Explaining, Carter said he needs
the extra money to cover overtime costs associated with upcoming
vacancies being created by officers called up for military duty this
summer.

For the Fire Department budget in Article 9, Carter
asked that voters OK the selectmen recommendation of $700,000 and not
the committee’s choice of $675,000.

“We haven’t been doing the
job I’d expect the Fire Department to do to save money, but I look at
the Fire Department as life insurance,” Carter said. “If we keep
reducing funding for the Fire Department, we will not have that
insurance.”


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