Town’s Volunteer Fire Department Resigns
Vote To Give Selectboard Power To Pick Chief, Members, Prompts Strong Reaction
UNITY, NH—The Town of Unity went to Town Meeting on Saturday, but the day finished on a contentious note for some with the passing of Article 5, which reduced the Unity Volunteer Fire Department’s control over personnel issues. The petition article, Article 5, which passed 65-38, read, "To see if the town will vote to organize the Fire Department under N.H. RSA 154:1 (b). The Fire Chief to be appointed by the Selectmen, with Firefighters appointed by the Selectmen upon recommendation of the Fire Chief. Two-thirds of the Firefighters may recommend the appointment of any firefighter or Fire Chief. Fire Chief and firefighter terms are for one year."
The approved article gives the Selectboard the authority to appoint the chief; prior to the change, firefighters filled the position from amongst the members. The change permits members to recommend candidates for chief, but the Selectboard will now have final say, based on Saturday’s vote. In addition, firefighters will be appointed to one-year terms by the members of the Selectboard.
Following the lengthy meeting, which included other warrant articles, firefighters left only to return later to say they were resigning from the department, unhappy with the change. It wasn’t clear if those resigning included long-term chief, Bruce Baker. During the week, Selectboard members and some residents indicated that there was a desire for a closer monitoring of how the department was operating and a need for better communication between the different town offices and departments; hence, the vote. In a statement released by the Selectmen, the board stated: "Several concerned citizens presented a petitioned article to the selectmen. The selectmen put the article in the warrant. The warrant was voted on at Town Meeting Day in favor of the article. After the fire department left for a brief period, they returned and the assistant chief stated that the fire department has quit. He said they would stay on until the selectmen have established a new fire department."
Firefighters said they would stay on until replacements could be found. By mid-week, Selectmen declined to comment further on the matter until they had more time to address some of the issues that had arisen with various parties affected by the vote, said one of the Selectmen. A meeting of town officials and others has been scheduled for Monday, March 27. The Fire Department has roughly a half dozen members.