The Manchester Select Board votes Tuesday to go into executive session during its meeting. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

MANCHESTER — Selectmen met in an executive session Tuesday night to discuss a personnel issue but took no action following about 30 minutes of discussion behind closed doors.

Manchester fire Chief Francis R. “Frank” Wozniak was arrested in Portland last month on a charge of operating under the influence.

Paula Thomas, vice chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said last week she was aware of the charges against Wozniak but could not discuss them because they are a personnel matter, and said the board would be taking it up in an executive session at their next meeting.

Francis R. Wozniak

That meeting was Tuesday night and selectmen did meet in an executive session regarding a personnel issue.

But Robert Gasper, chairman of the Board of Selectmen and a captain with the town’s Fire Department, said Tuesday the board took no action following the executive session and no changes are planned.

He, and other board members, declined to comment after the meeting, with Gasper saying he would talk about the issue when the time was appropriate.

Wozniak did not attend the meeting and did not return a call seeking comment earlier Tuesday.

No residents mentioned the fire chief during the selectmen’s meeting, which primarily consisted of a discussion of ongoing work on the following year’s town budget and planned changes to Smith Road, a short dead-end road off of Puddledock Road.

Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert speaks Tuesday during a Manchester Select Board meeting. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert said last week Wozniak was still working and staffing the town’s fire station.

Portland police said a vehicle driven by Wozniak, 38, was observed without its lights on at 11:27 p.m. on Feb. 22.

After the traffic stop, during which field sobriety tests were conducted, Wozniak was placed under arrest on suspicion of drunken driving and charged with OUI.

After his arrest, Wozniak was released on $2,500 unsecured bail, meaning he did not have to pay that amount but he would owe it if he does not show up for his April 9 court appearance.

Portland police said Wozniak had a handgun in his vehicle when stopped by officers, but his possessing the gun did not violate the law.

Wozniak’s position as fire chief was made full time at the annual Town Meeting June 13, 2019.

By a vote of 24-19, residents approved a controversial proposal to make the fire chief’s job a full-time position, with a salary of $37,440.

Manchester Fire Chief Frank Wozniak, center, at an accident Aug. 6, 2019, on Route 201 in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal file photo by Andy Molloy

The fire chief’s position in Manchester used to be a volunteer position, but in 2018 it became a paid, part-time, 20-hour-per-week position.

Gilbert said at the 2019 Town Meeting that officials proposed to make the position full time because the number of people volunteering to be firefighters in Maine has been in rapid decline.

He said the Manchester Fire Department is no different, having about a third of the firefighters it had years ago.

At the Town Meeting in June, Manchester officials said the Fire Department had about 15 firefighters who are paid for their time at fire scenes.

Wozniak said in a September interview he had been in fire service for 16 years and had held every position within the Manchester Fire Department. He said he has undergone training in basic firefighting but not completed Firefighter I or II training.

In late September 2019, Manchester left the Lakes Region Mutual Aid group, then composed of six towns that automatically responded when a fire broke out in any of the communities.

Manchester had been in the group for 45 years. With Manchester’s departure, the mutual aid group now includes Fayette, Readfield, Wayne, Mount Vernon and Vienna.

Manchester Select Board member Robert Gasper reacts Tuesday during a meeting. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

In Manchester’s letter to the other member towns of Lakes Region Mutual Aid, Gilbert wrote the community was seeking to strike new, reciprocal agreements for mutual aid responses to fires and other emergencies with five municipalities that share borders with Manchester — Augusta, Hallowell, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

The change prompted some residents to express concerns about public safety and to criticize local officials for not working more closely with the other members of the Lakes Region Mutual Aid group to maintain Manchester’s participation.

Town officials at the time said the mutual aid pact was not working anymore due, in part, to some of the towns being relatively far away from Manchester and, in part, due to what Gasper described as conflicts between some members of the group.

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