Bridgton declines to fill fire inspector job

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Despite having the funds for the position in the budget, the Bridgton Board of Selectmen voted Nov. 23 not to fill the new position of Fire Inspector as requested by Fire Chief Garland.

A majority of the board felt the position was unnecessary, since Garland hadn’t come forward earlier with his hiring request, even though the board had funded the eight-hour-a-week job. Members were also concerned that the many responsibilities listed as part of the job description would take many more than eight hours a week to accomplish.

“It seemed that eight hours wasn’t even going to come close,” said Selectman Chairman Paul Hoyt. “It looked like something that was going to grow…fast.”

But Garland said many of the inspector’s duties were simply housekeeping issues that he hasn’t had time for as a fire chief who also works privately in Portland. He said the impetus for having a fire inspector initially was to have that person act in an advisory role to the Planning Board, as they seek opinions on project proposals from a fire and safety perspective.

Since then, however, concerns have arisen over the condition of some rental properties in town, creating another incentive for having an inspector, Garland said. The inspector initially would be charged with creating a database of all of the buildings in town with three or more dwelling units, and eventually conducting annual inspections. Commercial properties also should be inspected for compliance with fire and safety codes, but there simply hasn’t been the manpower in his department to accomplish that, he said.

“I have seen some issues in businesses,” said Garland. Bridgton’s Fire Department includes around 50 members, but the department is volunteer and members are unable to take on the inspector’s job, he said.

“You’re facing a department that can’t stretch its call responsibilities” any further, he said.

Garland said he is aware of several people with experience in the field who would be appropriate for the position, but his assurances did not sway the board.

Selectman Woody Woodward, however, supported Garland’s request. “I get nervous when we as a board say that since (a position) hasn’t been used, let’s drop it,” he said. “There’s a big concern in this town about unsafe rental properties, and this would give us an official set of eyes.”

The vote not to fill the position was 3-2, with Selectmen Woodward and Hoyt opposed.

 

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