Winslow Deputy Fire Chief Scott Bolduc on Tuesday at the fire station. Some of Bolduc’s responsibilities could change should the Town Council move forward with plans to consolidate fire and police operations into a single public safety department, at least on a trial basis. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — The Town Council has given preliminary approval to merge police and fire operations into a single public safety department on a six-month trial basis possibly starting as soon as Jan. 1.

The council took the action Monday as part of a cost-saving move. Town Manager Erica LaCroix said a day later consolidating those operations has proven successful in similarly sized towns, like Hampden and Orono.

The idea arose when fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez at the end of October announced his resignation, council Chairman Dale Macklin said Monday. Rodriguez’s last day is Dec. 2, and he is set to move on to become the new fire chief in Skowhegan.

Councilors are scheduled to take a second vote Monday on the consolidation. Should the plan move forward, the town’s police and fire operations each would be led by a deputy chief who would report to a director of public safety.

The deputy fire chief is Scott Bolduc and Leonard Macdaid is the police chief, and both said Tuesday they will head into the trial period with an “open mind.” Macdaid said he’s heard of other towns that have taken a similar approach and it could be beneficial to spend more time with the Fire Department outside of joint calls.

LaCroix said Monday that while the deputy chiefs would run the day-to-day operations of their divisions as well as hiring and disciplinary actions, administrative duties like budgeting would be handled by the director of public safety. She said Tuesday that for the trial period the town will appoint an interim director from the existing town administrators. LaCroix also said no salaries would be adjusted until after the trial period.


Officials see the consolidation as being a financial benefit at a time when budgets are tight.

“Costs have skyrocketed for just about everyone,” LaCroix said Tuesday. “We need to be a little creative about how we deliver (town) services in order for them to continue to be affordable.”

The town would save money in the short-term by doing away with the police and fire chief positions, both of which pay about $100,000 a year. The town would have to adjust the deputy chief salary so it fits the role’s new responsibilities, and eventually would need to hire a new, salaried director, she said. LaCroix declined to say what that salary may be until after the trial period.

Winslow could save in other ways with the arrangement. LaCroix said at Monday’s meeting that more grant money is available to public safety departments than to individual police and fire departments.

Resident Pearley Lachance expressed skepticism Monday about the consolidation. He said he has 10 years of experience heading up an apprenticeship program at area community colleges and knows first-hand that “the background to being a fireman is so different to being a policeman.”

Another resident, Fran Hudson, questioned whether a new director of public safety could know police and fire operations well enough to adequately serve both departments and have the final say on hiring decisions.


LaCroix said the new arrangement “does not mean police and fire lose their autonomy.” The director of public safety, she said, will only need to know “how to be an administrator.” She also said that if the town hires a director with a background in either police or fire, “strong leadership” at her level would prevent favoritism being shown to one department over the other.

Macklin said the consolidation could help Bolduc and Macdaid by relieving them of administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on running their departments. Councilor Peter Drapeau compared the arrangement to how superintendents and principals work together to keep a school system running, and said as a businessman he knows that combining departments works “with the right leadership.”

Councilors stressed that the implementation would be on a trial basis. If the vote is passed next Monday, the earliest they could establish the new department would be Dec. 21. LaCroix said Tuesday the town would probably just hold off until the new year.

In other matters Monday, the council approved a $49,000 contract with Bangor-based engineering firm Haley Ward for a municipal facility study. The move is part of the town’s early look at possibly building a new municipal complex to replace town offices that are cramped and aging.

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