Commissioner warns fire district could go belly-up

Commissioner warns fire district could go belly-up

CUMBERLAND – The unified Cumberland Fire District, not yet 4 years old, may well be headed toward bankruptcy, at-large Commissioner Jim Scullin told the Town Council last week.

“We have kind of failed the taxpayers, in my view, over the past three and a half years,” he said, saying it’s “very depressing” that the merger of the town’s fire districts has not gone well.

If the combined Cumberland Fire District was a medical patient, “we would be in critical condition,” said Scullin, telling council members that the district has made “many mistakes” and is now in “deep financial trouble.”

“Right now I’m not even sure if we (can) come back,” he said, saying the town at some point may have to step in.

Scullin spoke prior to the appointment of a new commissioner to replace Commissioner Ronald Champagne, who recently resigned, in District 5.

Scullin advocated for the appointment of former North Cumberland Fire District Board of Trustees Chairman Edward LeBlanc, one of two candidates seeking the council’s appointment to the seat. He said LeBlanc would “hit the ground running” and have no learning curve over the next four months before the election.

The Breeze reported last week that fire tax bills are going up the maximum of 4 percent this year due mostly to ballooning overtime costs brought about by 11 firefighters going out on injured on duty status this year.

Chief Ken Finlay said this week that three of those firefighters are still out on IOD status. There are 52 total members of the district, including firefighters, the chief, and three deputy chiefs.

Chairwoman Cindy Ouellette said at last Wednesday’s meeting that she’s “not as doom and gloom as Commissioner Scullin” on the future of the district. Ouellette urged the council to appoint Vinnie Picone, a newcomer looking to get involved now that his children are a little older, saying the fire board could use the “young blood” and “different ideas and approaches.” She emphasized that she knows neither of the candidates, Picone nor LeBlanc.

Picone, a contract specialist and assistant vice president at Citizens Bank, ended up winning the appointment to the seat.

Ouellette said Champagne was “instrumental in solidifying budgets” and said he did a good job as commissioner.

Councilor Tom Kane made the motion to appoint Picone to the seat, and Councilor Bob Shaw seconded it. Councilors Craig Dwyer and Lisa Beaulieu also voted for Picone, while Councilors Scott Schmitt and Jim Metivier voted for LeBlanc. Council President Peter Bradley recused himself from the vote, making it 4-2 in favor of Picone.

Comments

Just let it go bankrupt and then shed some of those Union contracts. They need to start over.

The Commission and Fire Leadership needs to be audited. Our Fire Tax are high and yet they are close to Bankruptcy? Someone in management or the Commission needs to be investigated. There's close to 1 million dollars in OT for this past year. Is cumberland buring down? Why is OT so high ? We need and deserve better leadership.

It's not the leadership, it's not the firefighters; it's the contract. The contract establishes working conditions that lead to where the CFD is now financially. Is there a minimum manning clause?

Change the contract.

You might be right about the contract. But who negotiated the contract? Who executed the contract? If the contract is the issue someone must of agreed and thought it was a good idea. If not Commission or Fire Leadership, then who? They need to be made responsible for this mess. In the meantime tax payers will continue to pay high fire tax rates for a broken system.

Here's a link to the contract:

http://cumberlandfire.org/cfd/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/cba-2016-2019-S...

Signed by Bruce Lemois - Former Chair of the Fire Committee