FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to discontinue funding for the Salem Volunteer Fire Association in Salem Township as of July 1, 2023.

County Administrator Amy Bernard told commissioners she is concerned for safety and the county’s liability because the association’s two trucks are not registered or inspected, no training documents for firefighters have been submitted nor other paperwork since being requested earlier this year .

The county typically provides about $26,588 in funding to the association through the unorganized territory budget each year.

“I am just nervous about our liability,” Commissioner Bob Carlton of Freeman Township said.

Association Chief Steve Viles disputed many of those claims.

Viles, when reached by phone Tuesday after the meeting, said that the trucks are inspected but not registered because they do not have to be in the unorganized territory as far as he understands. He also said the association is a contract service to the county and is not part of it. He also said that if the county wants to see training records they should come up because there are boxes of them. It is easier for them to come here. He denied getting emails or contact from Bernard. The fire association became incorporated in early 2000s and separated from the county. Firefighters are not paid to cover about 24 square miles in Salem Township, which includes Mt. Abram High School.


However, Bernard on Wednesday said there have been several emails sent to Viles and to a representative that have been copied to him. A letter was also sent. He was also asked at fire service meetings about training documents and she was told they did training but later was told they are working on training, Bernard said. She also asked an association representative in early summer at a commissioners meeting to see the training roster, the level each firefighter is trained and other documentation in a discussion on the association’s request for about $154,000 from American Rescue Plan Act grant from the county, but still hasn’t received it.

“Fire trucks don’t have to be registered,” Emily Cook, communications director for Maine’s Department of the Secretary of State, wrote in an email Wednesday. “However, we recommend that if they are assisting other municipalities, unorganized territories, that they do register them.  If the (unorganized territory) or municipality wishes to register them, even if not going outside their area, we certainly do that. Additionally, fire trucks are not titled.”

Fire trucks do need to be inspected and firefighters are required to have training, according to the Maine Bureau of Labor Standards compliance criteria.

County commissioners, Bernard and others are meeting with representatives of fire departments in the area and plan to meet with select boards and Maine School Administrative 58 Board of Directors to discuss coverage of the Salem area. Commissioners also plan to meet with Strong selectmen on Tuesday to discuss fire coverage.

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