HALLOWELL — A consultant’s study of the city’s fire department reaffirms the need for fire station improvements and lays out options for saving money by working with neighboring communities.

The options include retaining the department as it is, creating a Hallowell public safety department or a regional fire district, or disbanding the department and contracting for fire protection, according to the report.

The City Council will discuss the report and seek public input at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4.

“We wanted to have the ability to have a range of options for people to consider and discuss,” said Councilor Ed Cervone, chair of the city’s Protection Committee. “We’re really, in my mind, at the beginning of the process.”

Hallowell has 13 volunteer firefighters operating out of a station built in 1828. The station has mold and fire damage, lacks showers and cannot accommodate some modern firefighting equipment.

A 2009 engineering study enumerated several of those problems, and residents and officials debated potential solutions at a meeting in January.


The Protection Committee wanted to broaden the question to include how Hallowell provides fire services, Cervone said.

“The discussion had been around buildings and such, and we thought it was a good time to look at the bigger issue of fire safety,” Cervone said.

City Council commissioned Courtney to study the department for $13,260.

Courtney’s report, which is available through the Fire Department section of the city’s website, does not make any recommendations.

Instead, it describes a handful of models for providing fire services, gives examples from other Maine communities and lists advantages and disadvantages for each.

One option is cooperating with Farmingdale, which is in the process of replacing its own fire station, to operate autonomous departments within the same facility.


Hallowell Fire Department also could undergo a full merger with one or more neighboring departments to create a regional fire district, the report says.

Within Hallowell, the city could create a Public Safety Department including both police and fire.

Or, Hallowell could eliminate its department and contract with another community, possibly Augusta, to provide fire service.

It’s the last option that concerns Hallowell Fire Chief Mike Grant.

“You lose history, you lose local control down the road,” he said. “It may sound good. But you’re going to end up subsidizing the fire protection with whomever you contract with.”

Grant said it could lead to a dispute like the one between Hallowell and the Greater Augusta Utility District, which raised sewer rates in Hallowell and Augusta for a $13 million project in Augusta.


The firefighters will meet to discuss the issue this week, Grant said. He said he likes the idea of a fire district.

A few years ago, Hallowell discussed creating one with Farmingdale, but it didn’t go very far, Grant said. In spite of that, the two departments have automatic response agreements with each other and train together.

“All these fire departments around here are working cooperatively right now,” Grant said. “So a lot of the operational aspects of either a district or interlocal agreements are already in play, but it’s just the cost-sharing.”

After the Jan. 4 meeting, the City Council will decide which option it wants to pursue, and Courtney will create an implementation plan, Mayor Charlotte Warren said.

He should be able to deliver a final report to the council in February, she said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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