Prudential Committee signals desire to lower payroll budget

Jan 10, 2023

The deputy fire chief and fire inspector at Dartmouth’s Fire District 2 will keep their jobs and pay levels, at least for now.

That was the decision of the district’s Prudential Committee at its meeting on Jan. 9, where members questioned the district’s new fire chief at length about ways to save the department money.

“At this point, I’ve been here 14 days. I need a little more time to evaluate things,” said Chief Erick Turcotte. “Right now, I think everything should stay as is.”

Committee members Bob Bouley and Bill Coutu have established at previous meetings that they would like to see the position of fire inspector eliminated and the stipend for a deputy chief reduced.

“Deputy pay, I think that’s rather high too,” Coutu said to Turcotte. “He’s making almost as much as you are.”

However at Monday’s meeting, Turcotte was not ready to sign off on wholesale changes to the department, especially as he was still getting up to speed in a new district.

“[Deputy Chief Wayne Thomas] has been instrumental with getting me in here. He’s doing an amazing job as deputy chief,” he said. “Right now I would not make any changes to any pays, stipends, or anything like that.”

The committee members said that they were concerned that Thomas was filling the roles of deputy chief and full-time firefighter at the same time, drawing a salary and an additional stipend while overlapping working hours.

Turcotte contested that the system was running “extremely efficiently” and that Thomas was “doing both jobs” to his satisfaction.

The committee members said they would revisit the issue at their next meeting, once Turcotte had more time to get acclimated.

“Just come back next month and justify it, that’s all,” Coutu said.

“The justification is he’s doing the job, and somebody’s gotta do the job,” Turcotte responded. “I understand that it’s not designed for a full-time person to get it but he’s doing the job with his full-time job. At this point, I don’t see why we should touch that stipend.”

The committee also asked Turcotte about the need for a dedicated fire inspector in a district with few commercial properties. Coutu has stated in the past that he would like to see the fire chief take over inspections.

Turcotte said that he would benefit from keeping a dedicated inspector at the department, especially when inspecting larger buildings like the Department of Public Works facility on Russells Mills Road.

“Even back when I’ve done inspections before, we’d go as a two-man crew when it’s something large like that because you need those extra eyes so you’re not missing anything on the inspections,” he said. “And especially being new in the district, him having some knowledge of those buildings is beneficial.”

“All I see is six inspections a month,” Coutu replied. “That’s a lot of money for six inspections a month.”

In the end, the committee decided to give Turcotte until the next meeting to learn the ropes but insisted that changes were coming.

“Next month he’ll have a lot more information — we’ll see how it goes,” said Bouley.