Fire chief resigns, citing internal issues; Mattawamkeag officials dumfounded

This story was published on Dec. 15, 2005 on Page B3 in edition 3 of the Bangor Daily News

MATTAWAMKEAG – Citing as among his reasons “a town official that feels the Mattawamkeag Fire Department is the most screwed up fire department that he has ever seen,” Fire Chief Robert Powers abruptly quit his part-time job effective Monday, town officials said Wednesday.

Chief of Mattawamkeag’s part-time and volunteer fire department off and on since November 2003, Powers in his Dec. 9 letter to the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator Joseph E. Clark also cited “an increase in internal problems” as reason for his quitting.

“I feel that I have come to a point in my career as fire chief that I can no longer move forward,” Powers wrote.

Clark and Selectman John Whitehouse said they had no idea who or what Powers was talking about. They said they were mystified by his letter. They believed the fire department to be in good shape and gave Powers good marks for his handling of it.

“I am just as surprised as anybody by what he said,” Whitehouse said of the letter. “It took me completely off-guard.”

“I think it functions pretty well,” Clark said of the fire department.

Deputy Fire Chief Zane England would not comment on Powers’ resignation. Powers did not immediately return telephone calls Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment. His letter does not identify the town official.

The selectmen plan to invite Powers to their meeting on Monday to discuss his resignation, Whitehouse said.

A Lincoln resident and full-time worker at Lincoln Paper & Tissue LLC, Powers accepted the $500 per month position in November 2003. He resigned for personal reasons in August, Clark said. He was rehired in November – a testament to selectmen and Clark approving of Powers’ work, Whitehouse said.

Yet Powers’ resignation was not the first from a town fire chief. In October 2003, Assistant Chief Hans Miller, Rescue Chief John Heald and Fire Chief Frank Hammond – Powers’ predecessor – resigned, and the town’s fire rescue squad dwindled from 28 members to nine. Fire rescue team members alluded to micromanagement of the team by certain town officials and said they “cannot in good conscience recommend anyone for the chief’s position.”

In his resignation letter, Miller expressed displeasure with the Board of Selectmen for its attitude toward the fire department. One selectman in particular “feels he has more knowledge of fire suppression and the emergency medical service” than those on the fire service, Miller wrote.

“I feel it is sad that the community has to suffer due to the actions of Selectman [Rodney] Gagnon,” Miller wrote.

Gagnon could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.