Apparently Winslow town officials have decided not to share a fire chief with Waterville, which likely would force both communities to pay more for chiefs than anticipated.

Waterville City Manager Michael Roy announced a week ago that Waterville fire Captain Shawn Esler will become the city’s new fire chief July 1 and was hired with the expectation that he would be chief of both the city and Winslow fire departments, but a final, formal decision by Winslow had not yet been made.

Roy said Tuesday that he received a voicemail from Winslow Town Manager Michael Heavener on Thursday saying a Winslow subcommittee had decided not to go forward with a shared chief.

“This, after the town manager and council chairman sat in on interviews with the new chief and helped choose the new chief,” Roy said. “After all that, they decided to back out. It’s very disappointing.”

A call and voice message left for Heavener Tuesday afternoon was not immediately returned, but when contacted by phone for comment, Winslow Town Council Chairman Steve Russell said he was not aware the town had decided not to share a chief with Waterville.

“I have not heard that yet,” he said.

Roy said he was told the Winslow Council subcommittee met last Wednesday and made the decision not to share a chief. Russell said he was not privy to what that subcommittee talked about, but it was his understanding the full Winslow Town Council would make the final decision — that the town manager would present a contract for a fire chief and the council would vote to accept or not accept it.

“We have not had an actual meeting,” Russell said of the full council.

Esler, 29, of Albion, has been with the fire department 10 years and has been captain since 2015. He was hired in 2008 and promoted to lieutenant in 2011.

Esler was scheduled to be paid $104,000 a year, including salary, benefits and other costs, to be chief of both departments, Roy said Tuesday. He said fire Chief David LaFountain earns $114,000 a year in salary, benefits and other costs and Waterville pays 60 percent of that and Winslow 40 percent, as would be the percentages for Esler if he was to become chief of both departments.

Waterville contracts with Winslow for a chief and Waterville pays the salary and other costs and Winslow reimburses Waterville the 40 percent, Roy said.

Waterville has not yet worked out how much the city will pay Esler, Roy said, but it will be more than the 60 percent it would have paid had Esler also become chief in Winslow.

“Both towns’ budgets are going to go up as a result of this decision,” Roy said.

LaFountain has been chief of both Waterville and Winslow fire departments for 10 years and plans to retire June 30.

Roy said nine people, both within and outside the department, applied for the fire chief’s position and five were interviewed, and Heavener and Russell were part of those interviews.

Waterville employs 15 full-time firefighters and around 35 call firefighters. Winslow has six full-time firefighters.

Roy officially hired Esler for a three-year contract.

Meanwhile, Roy sent an email to city councilors and Mayor Nick Isgro Tuesday, notifying them of Winslow’s apparent decision.

“I received a voice message late last week that Winslow no longer wants to share a Fire Chief position,” Roy’s email says. “This will have a pretty substantial impact on our budget.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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