March 29, 2020

Orono public safety chief resigns to take state job

ORONO – After less than a year overseeing the Orono police and fire departments, the town’s director of public safety is leaving to take a job with the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Cliff Wells resigned effective Friday, although he had made his intentions known last week, Orono Town Manager Cathy Conlow said on Thursday.

Hired last December, Wells was responsible for both the fire and police departments, which previously had been headed by a police and fire chief. Wells is a former deputy police chief in New Jersey who served for eight years as the director of the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, which dispatches police and emergency services for much of Penobscot County.

Conlow said that Wells indicated that he was returning to the communications field that he liked. “He took a job with the state to go back to doing that,” the town manager said.

Later this month, Wells will begin his job as the new head of the Consolidated Emergency Communications Bureau under the Maine Department of Public Safety, itself an operation in transition. The bureau had been the responsibility of the state police, which also comes under the department, but now will be expanded to better meet changes in dispatching operations, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the public safety department, said Thursday.

Wells’ salary has been set at $58,000 plus benefits, compared to the $67,275 plus benefits he was earning in Orono.

Wells will oversee the public safety communications centers in Gray, Orono, Augusta and Houlton at a time that the state is looking to expand its communications and dispatching services, such as dispatching for other police and fire and rescue agencies. The state already does some of those services in Augusta and Gardiner, McCausland said.

In Orono, Conlow said she is mulling over whether to replace Wells or revert to the way things were before. Although having a public safety director works in some communities, she said it might be better in Orono to rely on what she called the “talent” within each of the departments.

She said that Buddy Webb, who served as deputy fire chief, and Deputy Police Chief Gary Duquette stepped up to do what was needed until Wells was hired.

“There’s the talent there and I don’t know why I would go looking for any different talent,” she said.

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