Fire District 2 to interview two candidates for chief

Oct 18, 2022

Dartmouth’s Fire District 2 will look to hire a permanent fire chief from a pool of just two candidates, the district’s prudential committee announced at its Oct. 17 meeting.

The committee identified the applicants as current acting fire chief Greg Edgcomb and Kevin Harris, a captain at the Reedy Creek Fire Department in Florida, which primarily serves the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts.

Committee Chair Bob Bouley said Harris is “looking to relocate” and “has family in the [Dartmouth] area.”

Bouley said that a subcommittee will be appointed to interview the applicants and make a recommendation to the prudential committee.

The subcommittee will consist of Bouley, John Sousa, John Garfield, and former Westport Fire Deputy Chief Sam Manley.

The committee moved to advertise the position in August, after failing to come to an agreement with Edgcomb. The committee listed a salary range of $85,000 to $95,000 for the position.

Edgcomb, who has headed the department on an interim basis for nearly a year, had negotiated a $115,000 salary with the former prudential committee before it was reshaped in the April election. District voters later approved an appropriation of that amount for a fire chief’s salary.

But Bouley and fellow prudential committee member Bill Coutu have repeatedly described a salary of over $100,000 as being too expensive for the town’s smallest district by population.

“The bottom line is that we were elected to save people money,” Bouley said.

Still, the committee chair said that all things being equal, he would prefer to hire Edgcomb, a Dartmouth native, over an outsider.

“I don’t want to bring someone in from far away,” he said. “I hope we can settle with Greg and we can call this guy back and tell him we don’t need him.”

However, Bouley nearly moved to let Edgcomb’s interim contract expire, at first refusing to extend the arrangement until Dec. 1 — keeping him at the helm through the committee’s November meeting.

“We’re not gonna go another month,” he said.

Despite his insistence, Bouley eventually agreed to the extension after committee member Ralph Medeiros argued it would put less pressure on the committee to install a new chief immediately.

“At least it gives you some room to maneuver,” he said.

The meeting was attended by a large crowd, forcing it to be moved from its normal location in the downstairs conference room to the main garage.

The majority of the more than 60 attendees seemed to be in support of Edgcomb, voicing their disapproval with the prudential committee openly throughout the meeting in what Bouley referred to as a “set up” without further explanation.

The contentious atmosphere came to a head when the committee opened the meeting to comments from audience members who had submitted written letters in advance of the meeting.

Former prudential committee member Bernie Giroux was the first (and last) to speak.

Giroux appealed to the crowd after being given the floor, asking them if they felt the committee had not “acted in the best interest of the fire district,” prompting an eruption of angry comments out of which several shouts of “no confidence” could be heard.

Bouley was quick to shut down the open comment period following the outburst, declaring unilaterally that the “meeting [was] over.”

Despite the declaration, the meeting briefly resumed after the crowd was calmed, in order for the committee to extend Edgcomb’s interim contract, before adjourning officially.