OSBORN — After brief discussion and a unanimous vote Sept. 20, the town now has something it has lacked for decades: a legal fire department.
The nine voters in attendance at the special town meeting Wednesday night voted unanimously in favor of enacting a fire department ordinance. The ordinance formally establishes a department and defines the duties and powers of its members.
Osborn has struggled for years with having enough members in its fire department. In 2011, it had seven volunteers on its roster, but the roll call had dwindled to just two — neither one a fire chief — by this summer.
Not having a chief put the department on “disbanded” status with the Hancock County Regional Communications Center in Ellsworth, town officials said in July.
The town considered whether to appoint a chief or contract with neighboring Aurora, which has a privately run fire department. In the time since that discussion, Bruce Weymouth was appointed fire chief for Osborn.
Weymouth said when the town looked at contracting with Aurora residents in Osborn wanted to know how much that might cost but were “unable to get a [dollar] number.”
“That was the big hitch,” he said.
It was after deciding to keep taking care of its own fire protection needs that Osborn found its fire department had never been formally, legally established.
“It made our fire department for the last 32 years, as the legal department called it, a de facto organization,” Selectman Ray Slaybaugh explained at the Sept. 20 meeting. “It was an illegal entity.”
Slaybaugh said approving the ordinance that night resolved that matter. He said it did not change anything about the way the Fire Department is structured or run, but rather formalized its existence and operation.
Weymouth said the Osborn Fire Department currently has a membership of five, counting himself. It has two vehicles at its station on Route 179 next to the town office on Moose Hill, a pumper truck and a rescue vehicle.
The department meets once a month, Weymouth said, though there is not a set schedule as it depends on when members are available. Anyone interested in joining the Osborn Fire Department can call Weymouth (479-4240) for more information.
The Hancock County Firefighters Association will hold its next monthly meeting, set for Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Osborn station.
Those in attendance Sept. 20 said there had been signs earlier in the summer of bad blood between the Aurora and Osborn fire departments, but that those had since been largely resolved.
“There aren’t any hard feelings between Deb and I,” said Weymouth, referring to Aurora Fire Chief Deb Palman.
“We’re cool,” said Millie Caggiano, one of the four other members of Osborn’s department.