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Erving fire chief job search prompts concern

ERVING — The Board of Selectmen this year took the unusual step of beginning a search for a fire chief with someone still in the job, a move that has prompted some online outcry in support of Fire Chief Almon “Bud” Meattey.

A “Support Bud Meattey for Erving Fire Chief” page on Facebook asks users to click the “like” button or share the page with other users.

As of Friday afternoon, the page had generated 247 “likes” since its creation June 4 and a number of expressions of support.

Meattey has served in various capacities within the Erving Fire Department for more than 30 years, as chief since sometime in late 2008 or early 2009.

A handout at last month’s annual town meeting requested volunteers for a fire chief selection committee and meeting minutes show the Board of Selectmen has been discussing the position since at least March.

Minutes from the March 18 meeting record that then-chairman Eugene Klepadlo “reminded the Board of plans to assemble a screening committee for the FY14 Fire Chief position.” Fiscal year 2014 begins July 1. The board at that meeting decided to set the membership of the screening committee at one selectman, the police chief, an outside fire chief and two residents.

Klepadlo is, or was as recently as last year, a lieutenant in the town’s call Fire Department and has traditionally recused himself from votes relating to the department.

On May 6, selectmen approved an ad seeking applicants for the fire chief’s position and a job description.

The job ad solicits applicants for the job, described as reporting directly to the Board of Selectmen and responsible for staffing, responding to calls and administrative duties. The ad specifies the chief must live in or be willing to relocate to Erving within six months.

Applications were due to the Board of Selectmen June 10. The residency requirement for the fire chief, police chief, town administrator and highway superintendent is among the items on the agenda for approval at a special town meeting scheduled for June 24.

Town Administrator Thomas Sharp had no comment Tuesday.

“The town attorney has advised me and the Selectboard that it’s inappropriate to publicly talk about any matter that relates to an employee,” Sharp said.

Asked about the issue earlier in the process, Sharp said the board wanted to get the flavor of who is out there and expected Meattey to be among the candidates considered for a July 1 appointment.

“It’s more of a ‘let’s explore and see what else is out there’ rather than there are issues,” Sharp said.

The sole selectman directly reachable Wednesday was Margaret Sullivan.

“With regards to a new fire chief, it just was the end of the appointment,” Sullivan said.

Meattey was on the list of annual reappointments made by the selectmen last year.

Klepadlo indirectly returned a message left for him requesting comment Thursday, saying — through an intermediary — that he had no comment.

Neither Goodwin nor Meattey returned calls for comment.

The creators of the Facebook page describe the selectmen as newly elected.

Klepadlo was elected to a second three-year term this spring, Andrew Goodwin has served five years and Sullivan was first elected last year, with many years as an assessor and town treasurer.

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