Jay Fire proposes changes to ordinances, staffing

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The Jay Fire Department.

JAY – The fire department has been looking into the possibility of a cost recovery ordinance, which Chief Mike Booker presented to the Board of Selectmen on August 23. This would allow the department to earn some revenue from calls they respond to, within a certain set of parameters.

Central Maine Cost Recovery would take police reports and fire department reports for incidents such as car accidents, and file billing claims with the insurance companies to recover costs associated with the fire department response. Fire department services will not be withheld if payment is refused. This billing would not apply to residents, with the exception of an incident caused by negligence, such as repeated false fire or sprinkler alarms or a car crash related to negligence. Negligence in a car crash would be determined by the police report.

For non-residents, the department would look to recover costs for responses to a vehicle crash or fire, an airplane crash or fire, standby for utility lines in the roadway caused by a crash, responses to repeated false fire or sprinkler alarms, responses to a hazardous materials incident, mutual aid response for such calls, and other incidents as determined by the fire chief.

Central Maine Cost Recovery would keep 20% of funds collected and the rest would go into the fire department capital reserve account. The funds would not be factored into budget planning.

This would be a new ordinance on the town books, requiring a town meeting vote. The selectboard voted to place the question on the ballot for the November 2 election.

In addition, Chief Booker addressed the manpower issue at the department. Previously the board approved two on-call positions during the week days to ensure staffing was available; when they began the program, there were eleven participants. Now, there are three consistent members who sign up for the on-call shifts, and Chief Booker expressed significant concern about burnout for them.

The department has been discussing the issue and the proposal that Chief Booker made to the board was to increase his stipend and responsibilities. Due to his work schedule, he would be available to cover one of the on-call positions for about 170 week days per year. He would be able to dedicate more time to odd jobs around the stations, attend public safety meetings, and take care of reporting, training, and other responsibilities.

The yearly stipend of $25,000 would cover all of his time and work at the department, and relieve some of the burden on the other on-call fire fighters. It would be a most cost-effective solution than hiring a full-time firefighter and would fit within his current budget for staffing. The Board voted to increase his stipend and responsibilities accordingly.

The fire department and police department requested that the town repeal the fireworks ordinance, stating that it is not effective. Under the local ordinance, permits are not being requested and an officer who issues a summons for non-permitted fireworks has to be involved in the court process for prosecution. This is not something that the officers are prepared for, with regards to training or the time required to do so. By repealing the local ordinance, it would default to the state laws on fireworks, and any violations would be prosecuted by the district attorney rather than the police department.

The Board agreed to place this question on the ballot for November as well.

There is a proposal to refurbish the ladder truck at the fire department. The truck is about twenty-five years old but has low hours on it. The cost for refurbishment and full repainting is about $205,000, a quarter of the cost of buying a new truck. Chief Booker expects the refurbishment to gain them another 15 to 17 years of use with the truck, while buying a new truck today would only have a 20 year expected life span.

If the existing paint was simply reconditioned, the cost would be $185,000; Chief Booker strongly recommended that the entire truck be repainted as part of the refurbishment as it would have to be done within a few years anyway. The Board approved the project.

In other business, the board approved a Marijuana Ordinance committee, to consist of two Selectmen, two planning board members, and two members of the public. The town’s attorney is drafting a simple ordinance for the committee to review. The ordinance needs to be complete by the end of September.

A tax acquired property at 1031 Main Street will be put out to bid; the minimum starting bid is $25,000 and the property value is around $79,000. The property is currently occupied by a tenant so it will not be shown, and is only viewable from the public road.

Eagle Creek and the Town of Jay will split the cost of a sewer line easement clearing in Livermore Falls. While the line is in Livermore Falls, about 98% of the flow comes from the town of Jay, so about 98% of the cost is the responsibility of the town of Jay. Eagle Creek wants to relocate their power line and agreed to split the $10,000 cost 50/50, so the town will pay $5,000. The project is expected to begin within a couple weeks.

Susan Theverge and Linda Flagg were reappointed to the planning board, and public notice was issued for Brandon Hobbs’ nomination as an alternate member for the planning board.

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, October 12, on the four ballot questions for the November 2 election.

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