(Source: Lincoln News)
PASSADUMKEAG – The town’s fire contract with Howland will once again be the subject of scrutiny for the board of selectmen, however this time with the intent of a clearer idea of how emergency services outside of ambulance coverage are to be handled.
“What we tried to do with the contract is take any questions out of it,” Howland Town Manager David Wilson said.
Wilson and Fire Chief Josh McNally met with Passadumkeag Fire Chief Randy Davis on Wednesday, August 15 after a breakdown in communication threatened the initial contract the two towns had.
Passadumkeag Chair Todd Rogers, who also served on the joint fire committee last year, was scheduled to attend the meeting as well but could not make it.
The meeting was both an opportunity to present a clearer contract as well as for the two towns to iron out issues that had been building since Passadumkeag residents voted to both contract fire services from Howland while rebuilding its own department during a special town meeting on April 22. Since that time, Penobscot Regional Communication Center has not received a clear directive from Passadumkeag on who is to be paged to respond to fires, at least one payment has been late and, in one incident, responders from Passadumkeag canceled Howland responders despite the contract.
“It was not about the cost of the service,” Wilson said. “It was about how they conducted business.”
The new contract immediately clarifies who is in charge in any situation, with either Davis or McNally having the last word in emergency situations. The billing can still be conducted monthly.
Rogers said his board is still reviewing the contract, which will be discussed during a special selectmen’s meeting this Friday, August 25, at 8 p.m.
“One of the questions I have is the wording (involving contract termination,” Rogers said, citing a clause that states normal charges would be assessed for Howland response to Passadumkeag emergencies, outside of EMS, if the contract was terminated.
“My question is, if there is a county-wide mutual aid agreement, why are there charges.” Rogers said the contract has been submitted for attorney review.
In the case of county-wide mutual aid, McNally said if one department cannot provide the same level of response as its mutual aid partner, it is a billable service. Howland currently has a full-time department, while Passadumkeag is volunteer-based.
Both McNally and Wilson had high praise for Davis, as well as how productive the meeting was.
“It was a good meeting,” Wilson said, stating that the contracted service is both about what residents of Passadumkeag want as well as what is best for the town of Howland. “We can’t keep playing these same games, where the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”