The Dresden Board of Selectmen is considering applications for the position of fire chief, although the town already has a fire chief and has previously accepted firefighters’ choice for the position.
The request for applications is a change in process for the town, and took the Dresden Fire Association by surprise, association members said at the selectmen’s Monday, June 12 meeting.
Selectmen will announce their recommendation for fire chief after an executive session Thursday, June 15. The fire chief’s term runs through June 30.
The selectmen will not be able to appoint the chief and assistant chief unless voters approve a warrant article at the annual town meeting Saturday, June 17.
An article authorizing the selectmen to appoint the leaders of the fire department has appeared on the warrant for the annual town meeting since 2008. The appointments have always coincided with a vote of the Dresden Fire Association.
This year, selectmen requested outside applications. The selectmen decided to request applications for the position of fire chief and emergency management agency director without first discussing it with the association, association members said.
The association recently nominated current Fire Chief Steve Lilly and Assistant Fire Chief Ron Theriault to serve in those positions another year, Theriault said. The vote was unanimous for Theriault and nearly unanimous for Lilly, he said.
The position of emergency management agency director is currently held by Sonia Lilly, who is married to Steve Lilly.
“Why was the fire chief and EMA director not notified?” Sonia Lilly said. “I didn’t know I needed to fill out a resume for my position.”
The lack of communication with the association was an oversight on the part of selectmen, but was not required, Third Selectman Allan Moeller said.
An association member approached the selectmen and asked them to consider applications for the positions, First Selectman Dale Hinote said.
“Someone insisted we take applications,” Hinote said. “We had to consider it. We thought it would be in the best interest of the town.”
According to Hinote, selectmen have heard reports about mismanagement at the fire department.
Association members said those reports were untrue.
Selectmen put out a request for applications about a month ago via a post in the public notices section of the town website, they said.
Association members found out about the selectmen’s request via the post, they said.
“There’s a lot of talent out there and we want to have the best that we can get,” Second Selectman Dwight Keene said.
Selectmen have no intention to “shut out the association” and will give careful consideration to its recommendation for fire chief, Hinote said.
“People are making more out of this than it is,” Moeller said. “It’s probably not going to come to” what the association is afraid of, he said, which would be the selection of a fire chief the association did not vote for.
Since Dresden built its new fire station and the town has paid stipends to firefighters and officers, the fire department has come under the supervision of the board of selectmen, Keene said.
The fire department’s change to a municipal department under the supervision of selectmen was approved at the 2008 annual town meeting, Moeller said.
Since then, voters have been asked at each annual town meeting if they authorize selectmen to appoint the fire chief, assistant fire chief, and any other vacant position in the department.
Selectmen recognize the possibility that voters could reject the warrant article at the annual town meeting, which would be “unfortunate,” Hinote said, because it would leave the town without a fire chief.
The Dresden Board of Selectmen will meet at the town office at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 15 to consider applications and announce a recommendation for fire chief. Voters will determine whether to authorize selectmen to appoint the fire chief at the annual town meeting at Pownalborough Hall at 9 a.m., Saturday, June 17.