Sparks fly over late Bridgton Fire Department study

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Sparks flew between Bridgton Selectmen and Deputy Fire Chief Todd Perreault Tuesday when Perreault expressed his frustration that an overdue fire department study was preventing the board from acting on the department’s budget requests.

“To put everything…I mean everything…on hold — I think that was wrong,” Perreault said. He said keeping the fire department budget at “status quo” from the previous budget may cause shortfalls in covering such expenses as fuel, water and dispatching expenses.

The department had requested $246,858 in the operational portion of its upcoming budget, an increase of $10,312 over last year. Town Manager Bob Peabody and the Budget Advisory Committee shaved around $3,500 from the department request, but selectmen elected to recommend $235,453, slightly less than last year’s budget amount. In addition, the board is also recommending holding off on funding capital improvement equipment requests.

The Public Safety Strategies Group began studying fire department operational, equipment and manpower needs last summer, and was expected to have the work completed by the end of last year.

On Tuesday, Peabody said the town’s contract with PSSG did not require submission of a final report by Dec. 31, 2014, but he acknowledged the town’s own frustration with the delay.

“There is a great level of frustration that we don’t have this in hand,” Peabody said.

Perrault said the fire department has been conscientious in providing “everything (PSSG) asked for,” even if it meant making a special trip to hand-deliver information.

Selectman Chairman Bernie King said the board decided it just couldn’t access the needs of the department without the results of the study. “Are more station personnel needed at one station? Maybe. We just don’t know,” he said.

Board member Doug Taft said the board really needs to “have PSSG at the table” to discuss the matter, and was also uncomfortable making any decisions without a full board. Members Bob McHatton and Ken Murphy were unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Perreault said he was particularly concerned that the department would be underfunded in terms of its water needs, given that the Bridgton Water District has approved a 15% increase in its rates. But Peabody said he factored in the rate increase when he went over the department’s budget.

Please follow and like us: