Mattawamkeag fire chief to keep his position

This story was published on Dec. 20, 2005 on Page B2 in edition 3 of the Bangor Daily News

MATTAWAMKEAG – Robert Powers will remain the town’s fire chief.

In an occasionally stormy meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted 2-0 on Monday to refuse to accept the resignation letter Powers tendered more than a week ago after Selectmen John Whitehouse and Bion Tolman and Town Administrator Joseph E. Clark met with Powers for about 30 minutes in executive session.

Powers and the others with whom he met would only describe the incident that fueled his resignation letter as a difference of opinion with a town official, whom they would not name. Powers said the difference has been resolved.

At no time was the Fire Department’s service to the public compromised, Powers and selectmen said.

“The department handles emergency situations very well, with a lot of professionalism,” Powers said after the meeting. “Myself and the administration have a very good relationship.”

“If he had come to us first, I think we would have got it settled without him having to write a letter,” Tolman said. “He’s a dedicated professional and I think that we should be glad that he’s here.”

The selectmen voted unanimously to buy the Fire Department two new truck batteries, a radio battery, two new pagers and have six others repaired. No work costs were immediately available.

In his letter, Powers referred to “a town official that feels the Mattawamkeag Fire Department is the most screwed up fire department that he has ever seen” and “an increase in internal problems” as reason for his quitting.

Monday night, Powers promised that “several administrative changes are going to take place” over the next month regarding “internal problems that have been hindering us.” He declined to elaborate.

Chief of Mattawamkeag’s part-time and volunteer Fire Department off and on since November 2003, Powers gets a $500 monthly stipend to oversee 24 on-call firefighters paid $6.50 to $7.43 an hour, he said.

The board’s third selectman, Rodney Gagnon, attended the meeting briefly. He yelled and cursed at the selectmen and Clark, saying he felt that he had been erroneously blamed for the chief’s resignation and that Clark was at fault. Then he left.

Whitehouse said he wasn’t sure whether Gagnon had quit the board and that the selectmen would approach him to discuss it later.