A review that contains dozens of recommendations or suggestions for ways to save money, increase revenues or improve services will be the subject of a public hearing in Gardiner next month.

The report, which cost the city about $25,000, looked at Gardiner’s fire and police departments, library and public works department for ways to provide the services more efficiently. The report by New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc. doesn’t recommend any drastic changes, but it does lay out options for outsourcing or eliminating some services to save money.

City Council will review the report at its meeting Sept. 9, and a public hearing on the report is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gardiner on Pray Street. Consultants who worked on the report will be at both meetings to present their findings and answer questions, said City Manager Scott Morelli.

After those meetings, Morelli expects councilors will review the findings for each of the four departments at subsequent meetings this year.

Morelli encouraged people to attend the public hearing Sept. 16 and provide feedback about the report because the city will use recommendations from residents when deciding whether to make changes to the city services.

“The decisions could potentially lead to major changes, and we want to make sure we’re hearing from as many people as possible,” he said.


Morelli said the report, posted on the city’s website earlier this month, affirms some of the things staff members have previously said about the city’s services and shows that Gardiner isn’t an outlier compared to other communities in terms of its staff totals and its spending on services.

The report does recommend options for the city to save money, but in some cases, it suggests ways of bolstering the city’s services, including increasing the number of on-call volunteer firefighters who can respond to fires, using a chip seal treatment as part of road maintenance, and considering changes to library hours to better accommodate working families.

Some of the recommendations could be implemented before next year’s budget, but others wouldn’t be able to be put into effect until later, Morelli said.

The report evaluated whether the city should outsource some of its services, including policing, the ambulance service and management of the library. It didn’t recommend any of the outsource options, some of which were found to be more costly, but it outlined considerations if the city did decide to outsource some services.

For the fire department, the report recommends increasing the number of on-call firefighters to increase the level of service without adding new staff. The report said the city should make developing an active on-call recruitment program a priority.

Currently, the city has five on-call firefighters, but only two show up at fires at least fairly regularly, Fire Chief Al Nelson said. Going back 25 to 30 years ago, the city had a very strong on-call force, he said. But over the years, Nelson said, the city’s volunteer force declined, along with the forces of fully volunteer fire departments.


He said the city hasn’t actively recruited new on-call firefighters, but it’s also difficult to find people willing to make the commitment, which requires extensive training. Unlike the department’s full-time firefighters, on-call personnel are only paid when they respond to fires or train.

Nelson admits that the recruitment effort needs work, but he doesn’t envision a volunteer force ever replacing the city’s full-time firefighters.

Consultants evaluating the city’s full-time police department sought proposals from outside agencies to take over policing in Gardiner and asked representatives from other communities in the region if they were interested in contracting with Gardiner for the city’s police department to serve them. Community representatives said they were satisfied with their policing, and the Maine State Police declined to consider serving Gardiner, in part due to budget concerns and a lack of appropriate manpower.

The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office developed a tentative proposal to serve the city, but the costs in the proposal exceeded the city’s police department budget and didn’t include a school safety officer position.

The report says that the only potential savings in future police department budgets would likely come from reductions in staff and services.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663


Twitter: @pdkoenig

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