WINSLOW — The Town Council unanimously voted 7-0 during their meeting Monday evening to no longer share a fire chief with Waterville after a committee found that employing a part-time chief was not in the best interest of the town.

Councilor Ken Fletcher, who was a part of the Winslow fire chief committee, said people working in the department told the committee when they were making their decision that there was a need for leadership around the clock.

“We have a small department that depends on volunteers who need leadership there to make sure people feel supported,” Fletcher said.

Scott Higgins, a shift lieutenant at the fire department, said that having a chief four hours a day just isn’t enough anymore.

“It’s hard to foster a relationship with your leader,” he said. Higgins noted that the department responds to many different situations that they hadn’t years ago and it would be helpful to have someone at the helm full-time to help navigate these changes in their responder roles.

“It’s not just fighting fires anymore. We have ballistic vests now,” Higgins said. “We feel it’s important to have a full-time leader to keep the pulse on what’s going on.”

The decision by the Council came after Waterville City Manager Mike Roy had already announced that Shawn Esler would take over the role of the city’s fire chief from David LaFountain, who is retiring at the end of the month, with the expectation that Esler would also be chief of the Winslow department.

Winslow has been sharing a fire chief with Waterville for about 13 years, according to Town Manager Mike Heavener. Waterville traditionally has paid 60 percent of the salary and benefits of the chief and Winslow picked up the other 40 percent.

Esler was scheduled to be paid $104,000 a year, including salary, benefits and other costs, to be chief of both departments. Winslow was set to pay $43,528 of the cost, but will now have to come up with $60,603 more for its own chief.

Fletcher said during the meeting that, theoretically, regionalizing services should work, but it is not the right choice for the town right now. A longterm objective of the town should be to organize a fire district or regionalized department, Fletcher said, but that should be designed while the department has full-time leadership.

He also rationalized the increase in cost by comparing it with the dissolution of the school district — Alternative Organizational Structure 92 — and Winslow hiring its own superintendent, subsequently adding $97,000 to its budget.

Heavener said Winslow will now put out an advertisement for a new fire chief.

If a new chief isn’t selected by July 1, a temporary chief will be appointed to lead the department.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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