ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — The towns of Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro, which abut park property at Schoodic Point, have decided to share a fire chief and are asking the park, or a private entity affiliated with the park, to help fund the position.
Roger Bowen, a selectman in Gouldsboro, spoke to the park’s advisory commission about the issue when the commission met Monday afternoon at the Schoodic Education and Research Center at Schoodic Point. He said the towns have agreed to share the cost of a fire chief who would oversee the departments in both towns, but they would like to have more money available to fund the position.
The commission, however, took no action on Bowen’s request.
According to Bowen, Gouldsboro has agreed to contribute $32,000 toward a shared fire chief position and Winter Harbor has agreed to fund the remaining 20 percent, or $8,000, for a total $40,000. The different amounts reflect that Gouldsboro’s population of approximately 1,750 people is more than three times Winter Harbor’s population of 500 residents, he said.
Bowen told the commission that the two towns would like to come up with another $10,000 to $15,000 so the job can come with benefits in addition to the $40,000 salary. The new Schoodic Woods Campground that the park opened earlier this month in Winter Harbor, and the new network of biking trails that have been developed on and around the park property, Bowen said, are expected to result in the two municipal departments responding to more mutual aid calls to the campground and surrounding property.
Bowen said the towns had offered the consolidated fire chief position to a former fire chief from southern Maine who now lives in Arizona but who owns a seasonal home on the Schoodic Peninsula. The person came back to the towns with a counter-offer, however, after he determined that $40,000 in salary but without any benefits would be insufficient compensation, Bowen said. Short of the additional funds becoming available, he added, the man has indicated that he was not interested in taking the post, which remains unfilled.
As it is, Winter Harbor only has four volunteer firefighters, according to Bowen. If the towns can cobble together enough money to hire a qualified, experienced fire chief, he said, it likely would result in more volunteers being recruited and trained and, by extension, better mutual aid responses when the park calls them for help.
“It’s a moment of truth for the two towns, and I think it is for the park as well,” Bowen told the panel.
Sheridan Steele, superintendent for Acadia, told the commission that since the campground opened at the beginning of the month, there have been approximately 1,000 people who have stayed overnight at the facility.
Bowen said Tuesday that in that time, there has been at least one medical call on the park’s trails that local firefighters have responded to.
Steele did not directly voice support for or opposition to Bowen’s appeal at the commission meeting. He did say that the new campground and higher number of park visitors on the Schoodic Peninsula means there will be more park rangers, all of whom are trained as emergency medical technicians, and other Acadia staff stationed in that portion of the park.
Several members of the commission generally indicated that Bowen’s suggestion was a good one, but the commission did not take a position on the matter at the meeting.