Fire District 2 to renew search for new chief
Dartmouth’s Fire District 2 Prudential Committee decided at a Monday night meeting to seek candidates to replace former Fire Chief Timothy Andre, who resigned from the position last November.
The move is the most tangible sign yet that the committee — which was reshuffled at its April 25 election — is not content to follow the lead of the previous committee in giving Acting Fire Chief Greg Edgcomb a permanent contract.
“We may have the best guy sitting right here,” said recently-elected committee member Bob Bouley, “but I’d like to hit the pause button.”
“Let’s put it out and see if there’s anyone else interested in doing it,” he added.
Bouley said his main concern was with paying Edgcomb’s salary.
Though voters at the district’s May 9 annual meeting appropriated $115,000 to pay a fire chief, Bouley said that amount should be seen as the maximum, not necessarily the given salary.
“We didn’t vote for $115,000, we voted that the Prudential Committee could spend up to $115,000,” he said.
Edgcomb replied by reminding Bouley that a motion had been made at the same meeting to decrease the appropriation to $100,000 and it was rejected soundly by the voters.
“That proposal failed overwhelmingly,” he said. “So I think in that aspect, with 177 people at annual meeting saying, ‘no, we don’t want it to be 100,000,’ and ‘yes, we want it to be 115,’ that should bear some weight there.”
Bouley, though, insisted that the voters didn’t understand what they were voting for.
“I don’t think it was clear,” he said. “I don’t think people understood it accurately.”
Bouley said that he had done his own research on “small call stations” in Vermont and New Hampshire and found that, “the pays there were in the [$80,000 range].”
But Edgcomb countered that the cost of living in those areas is much lower than in South Dartmouth, making the salaries incomparable.
“I have a family member that’s a firefighter in Upstate New York and his base salary is $38,000,” said Edgcomb. “But he bought his house for $92,000. Tell me where around here you can find a house for $92,000.”
Ultimately, the committee signaled that it would begin the process of identifying and interviewing other candidates by reaching out to the Bristol County Fire Chiefs Association for recommendations and by looking into effective channels for advertising the post.
However, committee members recognized that the process would not be accomplished in time for the start of the 2023 fiscal year that starts on July 1. At that time, Acting Chief Edgcomb’s interim employment contract would lapse, leaving no one to lead the department.
To give themselves time to complete the search, the committee asked Edgcomb to extend his term as acting chief until at least Sept. 1.
Edgcomb agreed to the extension, but expressed that his current employment situation has not been easy as he has had to juggle two nearly full-time schedules in order to keep his job at the Bourne Fire Department.
Bouley suggested that if Edgcomb was overworked, he could get help from former Westport Fire Department Deputy Chief Sam Manley, who had been invited by the committee to attend the meeting and assist with strategic planning for the department.
Edgcomb replied that since taking control of the department, he had established an effective chain of command with the help of Deputy Chief Wayne Thomas and would be capable of continuing to run the department without outside assistance.
“If you’re willing to let me continue in the fashion I’ve been doing it, I will continue administering the department,” he said. “Between [Thomas] and I, we can continue to do it the way we’ve been doing it for seven months.”
The committee voted unanimously to extend Edgcomb’s status as acting chief through Sept. 1.
At the end of the meeting, the Prudential Committee reorganized its officers, making Bouley the chairperson and newly-elected member Bill Coutu the clerk.
The committee is next scheduled to meet on Monday, June 13.