After fire chief’s exit, Allenstown considers sharing personnel with neighbors

  • The Allenstown fire station on Ferry Street is shown. Lola Duffort / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Monday, August 07, 2017

In the wake of its fire chief’s sudden departure, Allenstown will reach out to other municipalities about potentially sharing personnel.

Dana Pendergast, the town’s former fire chief, was also Allenstown’s building inspector and health officer. He stepped down at the end of the month after being put on leave by the select board. Neither Pendergast nor town officials have said what prompted his departure.

On Monday, the select board encouraged Town Administrator Shaun Mulholland to ask neighboring municipalities if they would be interested in splitting personnel to perform some or all of Pendergast’s duties.

Mulholland had suggested the possibility, along with four other options, for filling the town’s new vacancies.

Pembroke’s town administrator, Mulholland said, had indicated the select board there might entertain a discussion about combining forces, especially with the town’s full-time building inspector retiring soon.

Other communities, Mulholland said, had combined personnel. Laconia and Belmont split their fire chief and deputy chief, he said, and some towns have fully merged departments.

“There’s certainly, at least on paper, the potential for some collaborative efforts here at different levels, depending on what the respective towns would like to do,” he said.

Select board members asked Mulholland to reach out to Pembroke to gauge interest and put more concrete proposals together.

“It’s worth the conversation,” select board Chairman Jason Tardiff said.

If Allenstown doesn’t end up sharing resources with another town, Mulholland has put forward four other paths forward before the board to consider:

– Hiring one person to perform the duties of a full-time chief, and part-time building inspector and health officer, as Pendergast had, for an annual cost of $106,700 a year, plus health and dental insurance. This is one of the town’s better options in terms of cost, coverage and quality of service, Mulholland wrote in a memo to the board, but it would be tough to find someone to meet all the qualifications.

– Paying a fire chief on stipend basis, hiring a full-time fire captain for daytime supervision, and hiring a part-time building inspector 3 days a week, for a total annual cost of $131,700 a year, plus health and dental.

– Doing the same as above, but instead of hiring a full-time fire captain, going with per-diem firefighters. The cost would be an estimated $117,800 annually, without the liability of health and dental.

– The town could also just rely on a stipended fire chief, without the full-time captain or per-diem firefighters, and spend just $50,600. Mulholland warned these last two options would likely come at the cost of quality of service and coverage.

Right now, the town is contracting with Municipal Resources Inc., a Meredith-based consulting firm, to carry out Pendergast’s prior duties in the short term. They’re paying MRI for 24 to 32 hours a week, at a rate of $80 per hour, for their interim fire chief. MRI is also providing a building inspector for eight to 16 hours a week, at a rate of $65 per hour.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)