FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Fort Fairfield has reduced its fire and Emergency Medical Services debt and expenses, along with its total expenses for the fiscal year, according to figures released at the town council meeting on Wednesday.
The total expenses were reduced by $900,065 for the end of the fiscal year, more than double the $400,000 goal that Interim Town Manager Dan Foster had set. Fort Fairfield will have about $1 million in savings for this year, Foster said.
The key to those savings was Mike Jalbert, who has been fire chief and emergency medical assistant director for the last nine months. Jalbert reduced costs in the fire and EMS budget by $500,000 and eliminated $600,000 in debt by selling off excess equipment.
“It wasn’t just the fact that the budget was so out of proportion to what the service was being provided, it was the fact that we had a very dysfunctional department and Mike has turned that all around in the nine months that he’s been here,” Foster said.
Jalbert kept a full staff, while increasing part-timers and volunteers from two people to more than 20.
Town councilors also discussed a $10,000 grant awarded to the Fort Fairfield library to create space in the community room for a coffee room bar for senior citizens in conjunction with the town’s Housing Authority. Additionally, the Stephen King Foundation has awarded the town a $20,000 grant to fix the library’s roof, Foster said.
The library also received a grant through the Ruth Reed Mraz Family Grant to hire another person to help digitize the Drew Room in the Fort Fairfield Library, but there was no information available at the meeting on the specific amount.
After discussing old business, the council introduced an ordinance to amend the zoning ordinance that will prevent further development of ground floor apartments on Main Street. The idea is to keep the spaces open for business development.
The town council voted to approve the sale of property at 10 Pool Drive and introduced an ordinance to sell it.
“We have all new rules about how we dispose of tax-acquired properties,” Foster said.
All the costs get tallied up with back taxes and interest rates, and with any money the town gets beyond the tallied up costs goes back to the former owner. Foster suggested the property could be renovated into apartments.
The council also approved the Maine Municipal Association election slots for the vice president and three executive committee members.