SEARSPORT — A new Fire Department cost recovery policy, which was introduced at the last Select Board meeting by Town Manager James Gillway, was further refined at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Gillway said it is a way to recoup some of the exorbitant cost when the town Fire Department responds to crashes and fires involving nonresidents within the municipality. 

Residents will also be billed for calls involving negligence, including repeat calls and car crashes related to carelessness. False fire and sprinkler alarms calls will also be billed after three incidents in a 12-month period.

The policy, he said, is based on wording used by other towns with similar programs. Gillway said incidents involving hazardous materials, aircraft crashes or fires and standby time for utility lines in roadways will also be covered under the new rule.

The fees include $300 an hour for a fire engine; $250 an hour for a rescue vehicle; $500 an hour for the use of the Jaws of Life; $25 an hour for a chief officer; $20 an hour for a fire officer; $10 an hour for a firefighter; and a $250 flat rate for a hazmat-related incident.

“It would be up to the (fire) chief, guided by the public safety director, to determine how many hours something is used at a scene,” Gillway said. “So they really have to be judicious about how we do this. This is not meant to gouge, but to replace funding.”

All funds collected would be put into a capital reserve account that would be used to replace emergency equipment.

Gillway pointed out that no emergency services would be denied or withheld for lack of insurance or refusal to pay. “We don’t want to discourage people from calling. We definitely want the call, but if you’re not negligent in getting us called out, then you’re not going to get a bill.”

When asked if the town would bill neighboring towns for providing mutual aid, Gillway said the policy covers only incidents in Searsport.

“Most of the time it’s pretty obvious,” Gillway said. “If somebody dumps their embers on the back porch and it catches on fire, or somebody dumps a turkey in a hot bath of oil on their deck (and fire ensues), that’s pretty negligent.”

“The newly appointed public safety director will make the call,” he said.

Ultimately the policy was tabled until the next board meeting to allow for public comment.

In other business, Brian Lunt was recently hired as a new officer in the Police Department. According Police Chief Boisvert, Lunt has over 20 years of law enforcement experience working in the Belfast, Camden and Brewer departments. “We’re lucky to have him,” he said.

Boisvert was appointed to a pilot program where he will serve as public safety director for a six-month term, along with approval from the board for an additional daytime police officer position. The board also approved a $1,000 sign-on bonus to attract EMT and ambulance driver personnel.

Harriet Clark, Searsport town clerk, said 2022 Historic Preservation Commission calendars are now available for sale at the Town Office for $10 each. “They are a great Christmas present for someone that loves Searsport history,” she said.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 with an agent of the Department of Environmental Protection at Union Hall to discuss offshore wind.

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