Contracts solidify fire protection

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Malletts Bay Fire Chief Steve Bourgeois worked with the town of Colchester this summer to finalize a three-year contract for fire protection and emergency first response. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Malletts Bay Fire Chief Steve Bourgeois worked with the town of Colchester this summer to finalize a three-year contract for fire protection and emergency first response. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Colchester has finalized a three-year contract with Colchester Fire District No. 2 for fire protection and emergency response services in the Malletts Bay area. The town’s contract with Fire District No. 3 is still under negotiation.

Once signed, this will be the first contract with Fire District No. 3. Past agreements for the village area were between the town and the Colchester Center Volunteer Fire Company.

Last year, the fire company and the fire district, located across Main Street from one another, merged into one entity. The consolidation transformed the fire department from an independent non-profit to a division of the fire district, an independent municipality. The fire district’s prudential committee now governs the department, and that body needs to endorse the contract.

Prudential committee chairman Jay Redinger said the contract will be on the agenda at the committee’s October meeting.

The merger aligns the governance model of Fire District No. 3 with that of Fire District No. 2, which also has a water and fire division. It sets a foundation for a possible consolidation of the two water districts, which was one of the goals that came out of the 2011 Heritage town visioning project.

“Down the road, politics notwithstanding, it could happen that the town takes over everything,” Redinger said. “Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.”

The contract with Fire District No. 2 was approved by both entities over the summer with “no problems,” according to prudential committee chairman Mike Whalen. “It went through rather smoothly.”

Assistant town manager Aaron Frank said both contracts have more specific language outlining the infrastructure the town provides for fire protection communication.

“It wasn’t clear in the contract where our system ends and theirs begins, and that is important,” Frank said.

The Fire District No. 3 contract has one other change of note: The Colchester Center Fire Department added language allowing it to end its first response responsibility in conjunction with Colchester Rescue.

Frank said the department won’t act on that now but has that option within the contract’s three-year life.