PASSADUMKEAG – Townspeople agreed to pay extra for fire coverage, opting to fund both a local department as it continues to rebuild while maintaining its contract with the town of
Voters approved three articles, costing tax payers an estimated $19,000 to fund the department, which has been in dire straights since last year. In 2017, the town voted not to fund the department, instead electing to spend $10,200 to contract all emergency services from nearby Howland. That contract was also renewed during Monday night’s regular meeting.
“I don’t see how we can afford to contract Howland, and also have a fire department that we are going to spend this much money on,” Resident Lee “Buzzy” Dudley said.
“I think we need to go one way or the other here.” Selectmen Todd Rogers informed the voters that if the town did not fund the department, then the contract with Howland would go up.
“If we don’t have a fire department and we go to contract, and there is not many to contract with, then the contract is not going to be $10,200. It is going to be $38,000 or $40,000,” he said.
Howland Fire Chief Josh McNally, who was not invited to the meeting, said the statement was not true.
“That is not factual,” he said. “We did a per capita rate.”
McNally said Howland determines the cost of its fire service contracts based upon the number of residents in the town. For example, Enfield pays approximately $35,000 for its 1,600
residents, or roughly $22 per person. Passadumkeag’s contract factors at about $25 per person.
Monday’s vote raises the per capita cost for Passadumkeag residents to $72.50. McNally said the rate does not change if a town does, or does not have, an existing fire department.
Currently, Passadumkeag has four volunteer firefighters. The town is included on Howland’s pages for alarms at the request of its chief Randy Davis, though the department does not have the available manpower to respond to most calls. When asked when the Passadumkeag department would be up and running on its own, Davis could not give an answer, stating it was a matter of recruiting.
The manpower shortage has been a problem for two years now, leading to talks, beginning in 2016, of Howland and Passadumkeag joining together to form a regional department.
Rogers said he was pleased with the Howland contract.
“I would just like to say thank you to Howland for the price of the contract (remaining) the same this year,” he said, adding he has been pleased with the service.
Passadumkeag also contracts all ambulance services from Howland. There is no cost associated with that program.
Following the meeting, Rogers admitted that no one from Howland had told him the price would go up if Passdumkeag did not fund its own department.
“If you look around at Enfield and other towns that don’t, the contracts (are higher),” he said, adding he did not believe it when told the price would not change if Passadumkeag were to
cease operating a fire department.