PHILLIPS — Fourteen volunteer firefighters who announced plans last week to resign from the town’s Fire Department now intend to stay on after the new chief, who started Jan. 1, has stepped down.

“We have, as a group, decided that we have reconsidered (our resignations),” Deputy Chief Mark Rousseau said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The 14 members of the town’s 17-member department announced their intention to resign by Feb. 9 in a news release Friday, but at Tuesday night’s department meeting they decided to stay on, Rousseau said.

The plan to resign was the result of the department’s dissatisfaction with Town Manager Elaine Hubbard’s decision to hire a fire chief, Stephen Naas, without consulting department members, they said.

Naas, who is a member of the Strong Fire Department, is not a resident of nearby Phillips and never had been a member of the Phillips department. Rousseau said the firefighters were concerned about working under the command of someone they have never worked with.

Naas was hired by Hubbard in December and assumed the role Jan. 1 after Jim Gould left the position on Dec. 31.

But Naas resigned Friday, the same day the firefighters announced their intention to resign. Naas’ letter of resignation, which he submitted to Hubbard, did not explain why he stepped down.

“With the turn of events, the individual appointed resigning, … we decided that we were willing to stay on and serve the town,” said Rousseau, who was one of those who had planned to resign.

As of Tuesday, Hubbard had received no resignations from the firefighters and stressed that in order for a town employee to resign officially, the person must submit a letter of resignation to the Town Office.

Hubbard is accepting applications for a new chief.

She said that she found out about the firefighers’ resignation plans through the news media and said that her only communication with Rousseau has concerned him acting as the interim chief while the town accepts applications.

“I don’t even know what the issue is,” Hubbard said Tuesday.

Hubbard could not be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment on the firefighters’ decision to stay with the department.

Rousseau, who has been deputy chief for nine years, said he plans to apply for the chief’s position.

Aside from their concerns about Naas as chief, the firefighters also thought Hubbard did not give Rousseau enough of a chance to apply for the position the first time, he said.

Rousseau said he approached Hubbard about applying for the chief’s position on Dec. 31 but was told that it had been filled.

The firefighters approached the Board of Selectmen at its Jan. 12 meeting and asked for an appeal of Hubbard’s hiring of Naas.

Rousseau said the two selectmen present went into an executive session with Naas, and ultimately, since at that point Naas was unwilling to resign, the selectmen said they as a board did not have the authority to overturn Hubbard’s decision. Selectmen couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

Following the selectmen’s meeting, at their Jan. 14 departmental meeting, the firefighters decided to announce plans to resign.

Rousseau hopes that going forward, the town manager will include consultation with the Fire Department when deciding how to fill the chief’s position. He explained that the department didn’t have anything against Naas as a firefighter, but in a small volunteer department, firefighters need to be comfortable with and to trust the person leading them.

“We’re a small-town volunteer fire department. We’re a family. Most of the members of the department have been on the department for 10 years or more. Over time you develop trust. Trust is everything,” Rousseau said. “Unfortunately for Steve, we had no working relationship with (him), … no basis for trust.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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