Lebanon officials are assessing the readiness of the town’s fire and EMS operations and investigating the department’s top officials after the chief and deputy chief were placed on administrative leave this month.

The Lebanon Board of Selectmen placed fire Chief Steve Merrill and Deputy Chief J.T. Harmon on paid administrative leave this month pending the outcome of an assessment of the department by York County officials and separate investigationa by the town’s human resources department, engineering firm John Turner Consulting Inc. and air-quality firm Environmental Safety and Hygiene.

The investigations stem from complaints to selectmen from members of the department that included serious allegations about the condition of facilities and equipment of the Lebanon Fire-Rescue Department, town officials said in a statement released Friday. Merrill was appointed chief of the department in February 2018.

The town has arranged for Roger S. Hooper, former chief of Goodwins Mills and current York County fire administrator, to assist Capt. Frank Maguire, the current ranking Lebanon officer, with the day-to-day management of the department. Hooper also will conduct an administrative review and readiness assessment of fire and EMS operations in Lebanon “with the goal of providing a comprehensive report to town officials about how the community can best move forward,” town officials said in the statement.

“Our primary goal is ensuring that emergency services in Lebanon remain running at full capacity and that the town has a path forward for future success,” Hooper said in a statement. “It is my sincere hope that the Lebanon Fire-Rescue Department will emerge stronger than ever through this process.”

The administrative review will begin Sunday and is expected to be complete in six to eight weeks.

The department has a combination of per-diem and on-call members. Lebanon has briefed its mutual aid partners, including the fire department in Rochester, New Hamspshire, on the situation, town officials said.

“The Lebanon selectmen wish to assure the residents of Lebanon that the fire and EMS department will continue to provide service uninterrupted,” board Chairman Charles Russell Jr. said. “The town of Lebanon is committed to providing reliable quality emergency services.”

Maguire posted an open letter to Lebanon residents on the department’s website on Feb. 14 assuring them he will “continue to keep the ship steered in the right direction.”

“The message to the town as a whole is this: Lebanon Fire is still here, we are still responding, and we are still ready to answer the call,” he wrote. “We have a resilient group of individuals, and in spite of the circumstances we still consider it a privilege to do this job for the citizens of Lebanon. I have complete faith in the department, and assure you there will be no adverse effect on the services received by the town.”


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