On Tuesday, the Town of Colchester unveiled the appointments of five command staff who will serve under the new town-wide Colchester Fire Department (CFD) starting July 1.
The five new members join career Captain Dale Newton, appointed in May, and Chief Stephen Bourgeois, who has helmed the town-wide department since January in preparation for its official start this summer.
According to Colchester Town Manager Aaron Frank, it was important to create a command structure where five out of the six top leaders in the town-wide department (except for Bourgeois), are volunteers. "This recognizes the importance of the past, present and future of volunteerism in the Town’s firefighting service," said Frank.
Volunteer members David Weissenstein and Gary Francis Jr. both hail from the MBFD.
Weissenstein will serve in the new department as Assistant Chief of Administration. He has served as a volunteer in the Town of Colchester for over 43 years, starting at MBFD as a firefighter and working his way up to his current position as Acting Chief of the department, following former acting Chief Newton and Chief Bourgeois.
As Assistant Chief of Administration, Weissenstein will oversee the department's Emergency Medical Service (EMS)—distinct from Colchester Rescue Squad which is a Town department—and be responsible for recruitment and retention of department members and volunteer personnel issues.
Weissenstein also served as a member of Colchester Rescue for 5 years; he is a State Certified Firefighter 1 and 2 and a State Certified EMT; he previously served on the Colchester Selectboard, the Colchester Fire District #2 Prudential Committee, and on the Colchester Cemetery Commission.
Gary Francis Jr. will serve in the new department as Chief of Battalion 2, responsible for day-to-day operations at the Malletts Bay Station and of personnel. Francis has spent 36 years in fire service; 11 of which at MBFD working as head of training, Safety Officer, and acting Assistant Chief. He is a State certified Firefighter 1 and 2, a past EMT, and is Hazmat Operations certified. Francis also started the Cadet program at MBFD.
Bruce Palmer, who will serve in the new department as Chief of Battalion 1, hails from CCVFC where he's held positions of firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and assistant chief. Palmer began his fire service career in 1995 at age 16, moving from Vergennes, to the Essex Fire Department, to the Winooski Fire Department, and finally CCVFC. Palmer will be responsible for day-to-day operations at the Center Station, the Champlain Station at Clay Point, as well as of personnel.
Erik Haversang will take on the role of Chief of Battalion 3 at the St. Michael's College Station. He joined the St. Michael's College Fire and Rescue department—a battalion of CCVFC—in 2007. He has served as full-time Fire Chief at St. Mike's for the last fifteen years. In the new town-wide department, Haversang will oversee day-to-day operations at the Battalion 3 station and of personnel.
Seth Lasker will join CFD as the Assistant Chief of Operations, overseeing the operations side of the department and working closely with the three Battalion Chiefs.
Since 2015, Lasker has worked with Colchester Rescue and as the Emergency Management Coordinator for the Town. He began his career in emergency services in 1984 as a junior member of Colchester Rescue before moving onto the Burlington Fire Department, where he spent over 25 years.
On Tuesday, Bourgeois also unveiled the new design for the CFD fire trucks. The design includes the town's blue and yellow logo, as well as the new yellow badge design Bourgeois revealed in March.
The consolidation of Town fire services has been in the works for almost a year. In July of 2019, MBFD and CCVFC voted to merge into one department under Town-wide authority. The impetus for consolidation emerged after repeated requests from the volunteer departments to hire more full-time firefighters in response to higher call volumes were pushed back.
Fire services represent the third largest area of expenditure for the town, making up about 10 percent of the town property tax budget. The overall cost for fire services has escalated at 5.6 percent annually over the last ten years, including costs paid by the town to the fire districts. According to Frank, the goal in merging services is to improve overall efficiency and streamline services.