The city of Gardiner has hired a longtime Augusta firefighter as its fire chief until the city can determine what changes need to be made to its fire department.
Dan Guimond, who retired from the Augusta Fire Department as a battalion chief in December, will serve as interim fire chief after Fire Chief Mike Minkowsky steps down at the end of March.
Gardiner put a hold on its search for a permanent replacement to Minkowsky until financial concerns about the city’s ambulance fund are resolved. The city is in negotiations to hire an outside consultant to review the finances of its ambulance service to determine why revenues appear lower than expected.
The discrepancies were discovered last month while city staff was developing a restructuring proposal for the public safety departments after a previous proposal to merge the city’s fire and police chief roles and create a joint deputy fire chief and code enforcement officer position was met with opposition from City Council.
City Manager Scott Morelli said he will likely announce next week who will be hired as a consultant. City staff believe there is a possible revenue discrepancy because of the projected revenues being based on amounts billed to patients and their insurance companies, and not what insurers will end up paying, according to a release from the city. Staff have no reason to suspect any type of fraud, the release said.
Morelli said Guimond was the first person the city contacted after he was recommended by both Minkowsky and Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette. He said the city wanted someone who wasn’t a possible candidate for the permanent position.
“He definitely has the background,” Morelli said of Guimond. “Our crew also knows him, and from what I’m told, they like him and respect him. That’s obviously a factor too.”
Guimond, who worked for the Augusta Fire Department for 34 years, will work three days a week and be paid $30 an hour, Morelli said. Minkowksy made roughly $27.50 an hour, along with benefits, he said.
Guimond will officially start March 28, although he will work with Minkowsky before that to get acclimated to the department, Morelli said.
Guimond, 56, of Augusta, said he likes working in the public sector.
“They provide a good service to the city of Gardiner and the surrounding communities, and I want to make sure that continues until they hire a full-time fire chief,” he said.
Morelli said the length of Guimond’s stay as chief will depend on how long it takes the consultant to review the ambulance fund and report the findings to City Council. Councilors will still need to approve any changes to the department structure.
Gardiner Ambulance Service provides rescue and emergency service to Gardiner, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner. It brings in revenue by billing individuals and their insurance companies for service and through fees charged to all communities, including Gardiner.
A major goal of the proposed public safety department restructuring was to lower costs for the surrounding communities also served by the ambulance service to prevent them from leaving the partnership for cheaper, private ambulance companies.
Morelli hasn’t disclosed any details about an alternative plan other than telling councilors at their Feb. 22 meeting that the fire chief position will be involved.