Responding to a mass walkout by the the town's firefighters last month, Thorndike selectmen are hoping voters will approve a municipal fire department to replace of the town's semi-independent fire company.

The warrant at the annual town meeting Saturday, March 16, includes an article asking voters if they support creation of a municipal fire department.

How that would look or what would change remain to be seen, according to First Selectman Larry Ward, who said the intent was to get the ball rolling.

"We're just looking to streamline things so we can do our job," he said.

In the week before the town meeting, it was unclear what this streamlining would entail. Thorndike Fire Department is incorporated as a separate entity from the town and hires most of its own personnel, but the town owns the building and pays the expenses, and selectmen must approve the fire chief. Ward described it as "independent and 100-percent town-funded."

The division of authority became charged last month when selectmen received a letter from four Waldo County emergency services organizations notifying them of problems they had witnessed with Thorndike's fire department, including a lack professionalism that had created hazardous situations for other emergency personnel.

The organizations blamed former Chief George Russell. Russell was deputy chief at the time under what the emergency officials termed a "figurehead" chief. He later resigned but others in the department continued to advocate for his return.

On Feb. 20, Thorndike firefighters walked off the job after selectmen refused their demands to release funding for new equipment and reinstate Russell.

"We had a cult of personality going on at the fire department," Ward said. "That's what I can gather."

Ward said little will change about the appearance of the department, which he said has come back together since the walkout. The Republican Journal was unable to reach any current members of Thorndike Fire Department for comment.

"We have a functioning department," Ward said. "We're working with other towns. Everyone seems to be happy."

Officials from neighboring towns at annual meetings March 9, however, continued to express uncertainty about the status of the embattled department.

Thorndike's annual town meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Town Office, 125 Mount View Road.