NORRIDGEWOCK — After their positions were approved at Town Meeting last winter and they went through the hiring process, two full-time firefighters have begun working for the Norridgewock Fire Department, serving about 4,000 residents in Norridgewock and Mercer.

Joshua Corson, 32, and Andrew Dexter, 19, began their duties as Norridgewock’s first full-time firefighters last month after a multiphase hiring process that included an application, written test, physical agility exam and an oral interview.

Capt. Todd Pineo described the agility test as being an “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course, but for firefighters.

Dexter said he has wanted to go full time for a while, after having worked for the Leeds and Turner Fire departments.

“I heard about the job and figured I can’t not try. Going full time is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Dexter said. “I saw the posting, saw that I met the qualifications and gave it a shot. And here I am.”

Corson is no stranger to the department. He has been on Norridgewock’s call force since 2009, and has spent time working for the Skowhegan and Madison Fire departments.

“I grew up in Mercer. It’s been a good road. I feel like I’ve helped the community a lot, and that’s what I love doing,” Corson said. “It’s a good feeling helping your community, and Norridgewock and Mercer are very small, tight-knit communities.”

Firefighters Joshua Corson, 32, left, and Andrew Dexter, 19, wash a truck Thursday at the Norridgewock Fire Department. The men are the first two full-time firefighters employed by the town. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The positions were approved by voters at the March 2 annual Town Meeting, where a portion of the $2.2 million budget was designated to hire two full-time firefighters.

The article on the town warrant called for voters to authorize two full-time Norridgewock Fire Department firefighters to begin no sooner than July 1 and for $50,000 to cover the cost of the new positions through the six months remaining in 2020.

Because they started their positions later in the year than planned, the municipal tax rate will be slightly lowered, Pineo said.

With the positions approved, the request from the Fire Department in fiscal year 2021 is expected to be a minimum of $100,000, but more likely in the range of $120,000 to $130,000 per year to fund the positions, Town Manager Richard LaBelle has said.

LaBelle said this week the new hires have been embraced by the community.

“A lot of what we saw in them were connections to the community, which has a lot of value,” LaBelle said. “Andrew was willing to relocate for us and had deep ties to Norridgewock, which was very important to us. A lot of their personal character traits we were very impressed by. We’re really excited, and it’s brought a lot of excitement into the community.”

The vote came in response to a straw poll taken at the town’s 2019 Town Meeting indicating residents wanted to hire two full-time firefighters. Selectmen applied for a federal grant to help pay for them, but the town’s application was denied.

David Jones, chief of the Norridgewock Fire Department, speaks Thursday about the town’s first two full-time firefighters. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The department responds to about 200 calls a year for the towns of Norridgewock and Mercer.

Along with the two full-time positions, the department has 18 call firefighters. Adding the full-time positions has improved response times and taken some of the pressure off fire Chief David Jones.

Jones said having two firefighters working days helps him and his son, who own a car business in town and have had to leave the business in the past when calls come in.

“It takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Jones said. “On a day like today, I would have left two people stranded in the garage waiting for me to get back from a call.”

With COVID-19, additional safety measures have been implemented at the department and additional sanitation measures have been taken. Having the two new positions, Pineo said, has made this easier.

The two firefighters on days has also improved the department’s response times, Corson said, because they are already at the Upper Main Street station. Over time, this should improve the town’s rating that influences what homeowners pay for property insurance.

“We are fortunate to have the two new firefighters and fortunate that the town has been willing to invest in that,” LaBelle said. “Yes, it’s more money, but what we’re doing here is getting the biggest bang for our buck in terms of Fire Department and emergency services funding.

“This now complements the call-force firefighters, will reduce call time and also engage the community, residents, taxpayers and businesses. We ought to be proud that a community like Norridgewock can employ two full-time firefighters and still maintain a call force of 18.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.