Media Archive

County OKs fire contracts with Milo, Brownville

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 2, January 08, 2003

By Ben Bragdon
Staff Writer

BROWNVILLE Both Brownville and Milo are ready to go ahead with next year's contracts with the county to provide fire protection services to surrounding unorganized territories, though the negotiations between the two towns and Piscataquis County officials show there is some disagreement over how the rates should be calculated.

Last week, the county commissioners approved a contract with Milo for that town to provide fire coverage to Omeville in 2003. The contract was nearly identical to the 2002 edition, with most of the hourly rental rates of trucks, officers, and firefighters staying the same. Omeville's valuation, on which the yearly base fee is calculated, did rise over the past year, bringing that fee up from $4,400 in 2002 to $7,300 in 2003.

The county also agreed to a contract for Brownville to offer its fire services to Williamsburg, Katahdin Ironworks and Ebeemee. The flat rate of $5,000 for those services is the same as last year's contract, though some of the rental rates, all on a per hour basis, have changed slightly.

The flat rates for both the contracts were calculated based on the values of the buildings in each respective territory, a formula that has made for a mild point of departure between those who run local municipalities.

Town officials in Milo believe the valuation-based system, due to the nature of the region," allows all those involved to be treated fairly by giving the county one measure to apply to all towns. (The valuation-based system) is how we distinctly believe it should be to provide

for fair and equitable fire protection for the unorganized territories." said Milo Town Manager, Jane Jones. "The board and I think it is the only fair way to do it at this point. "

But in Brownville, the board of selectmen have been vocal in their opposition to a fire contract based on valuation. Though they will almost assuredly go ahead with the contract, the board does have some misgivings about putting the town at risk both financially and physically by promising to fight fires in unorganized territories under a contract that pays the town not for the costs of the services Brownville provides, but for the value of the territory in which it fights. While the territories they cover may not have high valuations, that doesn't necessarily mean it would cost the town any less to put out a fire there.

"The board feels very strongly that when the Brownville Fire Department goes to another community, we must mitigate all the liabilities," said Town Manager Sophie Wilson. "We want to be a good neighbor and provide services, but we cannot put the community at risk."

Also, on a larger point, Wilson said the board feels that the current system may run contrary to the traditional Maine premise of local municipal control.

Last month, Greenville looked into their options for providing fire services to their surrounding territories before agreeing to a contract similar to those signed by Milo and Brownville, a contract using the same valuation-based system as the town had agreed to in past years.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.