Erving chief finalist drops out

Selectmen hire mediator for Fire Department

ERVING — The Board of Selectmen has hired an arbitrator to mediate the situation with and within the Fire Department.

Selectmen were scheduled to interview finalists for the position of fire chief at their Thursday night meeting as well, but did not do so.

Chairman Andrew Goodwin announced one of the two finalists, one-time Erving fire chief Mitchell LaClaire Sr. has withdrawn his candidacy. Phillip Wonkka is the remaining candidate, although it is not clear that he will become chief. A search committee of nine had narrowed a field of three candidates to two, excluding the current interim chief.

Selectman Margaret Sullivan and Chairman Andrew Goodwin have disagreed on the question of the department leadership, with the tie-breaking third member sidelined by a conflict of interest.

After the search committee presented finalists not including the present chief of five years, obliged to reapply for his job this year, Goodwin proposed abandoning the current search and instituting an entirely different Fire Department oversight structure.

Goodwin and Sullivan decided at the last meeting to use the month then remaining in Almon D. “Bud” Meattey’s temporary reappointment to continue forward with finalist interviews, hire a mediator for the divided department and further investigate Goodwin’s proposal for a board of engineers to govern the department and elect officers.

Goodwin and Sullivan agreed to hire Sophie Parker as an arbitrator on Town Administrator Thomas Sharp’s recommendation.

Parker’s proposal includes gathering more information on the nature of the problem, beginning with interviews of Meattey, then Sharp, the selectmen, and finally an all-hands Fire Department meeting. The next step would be the creation of a three-member planning board consisting of a neutral firefighter and one each from the groups for and against Meattey to work with the consultant.

The consultant’s stated goals are to improve the communication, team dynamics and overall cohesion of the department.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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