Search for Wilton fire chief begins

WILTON – The Select Board voted on Monday, May 20, to increase the Fire Chief’s stipend to $15,000, and increase of $8,000, the first step in trying to attract a qualified person to the position. Selectwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault abstained, saying she first wanted to know where the extra money would come from.

Chairman Kermit Williams, said, “In a budget of six million dollars, finding $8,000” finding should not be a problem. He added, “We have to set priorities, and the Fire Department needs to be a priority.”

Part of the additional money would go toward required inspections.

The board is in the process of updating the job description, of which inspections are a main part.

Boissonnault said the board has to decide if the chief will continue to do those or if a separate inspector should be hired. They also have to decide if they want a full- or part-time chief, what his or her responsibilities should be, what the stipend or salary should be, and if the chief has to be a resident.

She also said she found that Wilton has a large number of vehicles and perhaps the department should be re-evaluated.

Williams said he was not sure what decisions the board should make and what has to be decided by a town meeting, but said they can’t wait another year to find a chief. The various roles of the chief can be combined or decided, “but it is our job to ensure the town has what it needs.”

The board agreed to have the job description reviewed by their insurance carrier and then post the position “to see what response we get.”

Town Administrator Paul Branscombe said he had received “three letters of interest.” Interim Fire Chief Don Nourse said he was “still not interested.”

One of those letters is from Emergency Services Director David Boissonnault, prompting resident Tom Schultz to suggest that there is a conflict of interest on the part of his wife, and that she should recuse herself from all of the discussions.

She said she had checked and said she could take part in all discussions but not vote.

In other business on Monday, the board discussed ambulance staffing with Assistant Chief Karen Artenik. The question was raised because of an overage in the salary account.

Artenik said the current plan is to keep two ambulances staffed during the day with a paramedic plus two EMTs or AMTS, with the goal of reducing response time. The second ambulance is used about 20 percent of the time, and a few times a third has been requested from mutual aid.

Williams said there had been a request that there always be a paramedic available.

With the addition of Greenfield, the service is covering a large area with few resources.

Williams said one problem is the small amount that Medicare and Medicaid pay and Wilton, as the owner of the service, has to pay any overage.

Also discussed was the use of the ambulance for non-emergencies, such as picking up food. It was explained that since the staff does not take lunch breaks, they take the ambulance to reduce response time.

Budget Committee Member Harry Dailey said the board “needs to make some decisions,” both about staffing and the ambulance bay. “The farther into the year you go, the more the overrun.”

Policies and procedures will be discussed as a future meeting with Director Steve Desrosiers.

The next meeting of the board will be June 3.