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- The Forecaster
HARPSWELL — Four new firefighters were approved Jan. 25 to serve Harpswell’s three fire departments, after a months-long search by town officials.
At the same meeting, the Board of Selectmen approved a revised draft of the town’s expression of interest for outside parties to lease the water tower at Mitchell Field. Selectmen also approved a new culvert to be built as part of the Mitchell Field pier demolition project for just under $4,000.
Art Howe, fire administrator and emergency management agent, presented the names of the four new firefighters to Chairman Rick Daniel and Selectman David Chipman. Selectmen Kevin Johnson was absent.
Bill Cusick, Brian Burgess, Sean Hall and Meriel Longely were recruited to cover the equivalent of two full-time shifts. The town has struggled in recent years to provide sufficient coverage during the day.
Cusick is the retired battalion chief of the Augusta Fire Department, Burgess works for the Woolwich Fire Department, and Hall works for the Orr’s & Bailey Island Fire Department. Longely is a firefighter with Cundy’s Harbor Fire Department and a paramedic for Wiscasset Emergency Medical Services.
According to the town website, hourly pay for the firefighters will be between $12 and $16 depending on qualifications and certifications.
Howe added a fifth candidate is pending review, and said he hoped three more would be ready for approval at the board’s Feb. 1 meeting.
He also said he hopes to have an orientation day for the new firefighters in the coming weeks. Each of them will also be fitted for turnout gear, which can take between eight and 10 weeks for delivery.
The hiring process took longer than initially expected, with the original deadline for firefighter applications set for mid-September. By early September, the town had only received two applications.
Implementing a more in-depth background check further slowed the process, but Howe said he is happy with the results.
“It’s been a longer process than expected, but I think it’s going to give us a very solid group of individuals that are going to work very well together,” he said.
Selectmen also approved an additional culvert to be built near the Mitchell Field pier demolition site and changes to a document for those interested in leasing the water tower.
In creating the updated draft of the expression of interest document, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said she, Town Planner Mark Eyerman and Treasurer Marguerite Kelly took into consideration suggestions made at the board’s previous meeting and a Jan. 23 workshop.
The draft outlines specifications the town expects outside entities to meet. Residents will vote on two related warrant articles at Town Meeting; one would authorize selectmen to move forward with the tower demolition, and the other will seek authorization of a lease of up to 20 years.
The original document asks interested entities to submit a plan for the renovation of the water tower and related facilities, a timeline for completing the work and the estimated cost of repairs. The costs are to be based on written estimates or proposals by contractors, engineers or tower consultants, according to the draft.
Eiane said one key change town officials made to the document is emphasizing that proposals not conforming to the requirements set out in the draft will still be considered.
“We’ve really tried to be really flexible based on what we heard last week and at the workshop,” she said. “(We are) open to receiving expressions of interest that may not be as detailed as we might receive if someone were to put in a lot of time and effort to respond to the (request for proposal).”
Edited Feb. 5 to state the firefighters will serve all three of Harpswell’s fire departments.
Harpswell Town Offices