A public works plow driver clears the sidewalk along Silver Street in Waterville on Feb.21, 2019. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

While Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland have a mutual agreement in place to help each other out if they are short-handed because of COVID-19 illnesses, they have not had to use that agreement.

“We haven’t yet — knock on wood,” said Winslow Public Works Director Paul Fongemie.

Likewise, Fairfield and Oakland’s public works directors, Bruce Williams and Jeff Hall, respectively, said Thursday that they haven’t had to ask for help from other communities that are part of the agreement — nor have they been asked for help by other departments.

Waterville Public Works Director Matt Skehan did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment Thursday, but Waterville’s human resources director, Bobbie-Jo Green, said in an email that his department has not had to ask for help due to one public works employee being out with COVID-19.

Waterville City Manager Steve Daly reported to the City Council on Tuesday night that someone in the public works department has been quite ill with COVID-19 for about two weeks, and the police and fire departments, as well as city hall, have all been impacted by COVID-19.

Daley said fire Chief Shawn Esler and Green have been monitoring all the situations and applying policy protocols with each. Also, Esler is working with local medical care professionals to get all public safety staff vaccinated, according to Daly.


Green on Thursday provided the Morning Sentinel with the breakdown of COVID cases that have been identified, per department. In November 2020 one person in the fire department had COVID-19, and in December one person had COVID-19; the police department in November had two cases, and in December, also had two cases; in January 2021, there was one case at city hall; and this month, the public works department has one case.

“There is only one case at Public Works and that individual is in quarantine and will be for the next 2 weeks,” Green said in her email. “This has not affected the mutual aid agreement with the neighboring communities.”

Two city employees are currently in quarantine, with one expected to return in a week and the other in two weeks, according to Green.

Daly said Wednesday that Waterville residents should be proud of how effective the city’s COVID-19 management policy has been at keeping city services functioning during the uncertain pandemic.

Fongemie, Winslow’s public works director, said that late last year he brought the area public works departments together to see if they wanted to have a mutual aid agreement in the event employees get sick during the pandemic and any department needed help from another department.

“Everyone was on board so we got something drafted and Bill Lee reviewed it and managers signed it,” Fongemie said Thursday.


He was referring to Winslow’s legal counsel, William A. Lee III, who also is city solicitor for Waterville.

Area police and fire departments already have mutual aid agreements in place, not specifically because of COVID, but those agreements would cover a situation where a department needed help because it was short-handed because of COVID, for instance, according to Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey.

“We use our mutual aid agreement almost on a weekly basis,” Massey said Thursday. “It’s for routine calls … but the mutual aid agreement would cover if we lost five or six people all at one time.”

He said that no department charges another for services when mutual aid is rendered.

“In the mutual aid agreement, we have to take care of our own cost,” he said. “If Fairfield backs up Waterville, it’s on them and vice versa.”

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