Almost half of an on-call team in the Westbrook Fire Department has quit suddenly, a possible consequence of a rift between full-time and hourly personnel.

Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte confirmed four of the nine people in the fire/police division have resigned since last week. That group typically helps as needed with traffic control at the scene of car accidents, during bad weather or at parades. While the members usually respond from home, the division is allotted common space and equipment storage at the city’s main public safety building.

The resignations followed a Westbrook City Council workshop last week, when Mayor Mike Sanphy proposed giving the fire/police division and the 13-person call company their own building.

“There’s a great deal of dissatisfaction among the members of the call company and the fire/police with the current arrangement,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said at the meeting.

The new home proposed for the fire/police division and the call company is a former fire station at 41 Cumberland St. The property is owned by the Sappi paper mill, and it was given to the city to be used for municipal purposes. Fire crews moved out of that building when the existing public safety complex was built. It has since been used by the sewer department, which will soon move to the city’s new public works building. If vacated, the property will return to Sappi.

Sanphy suggested moving the home base for on-call personnel and their equipment to the former fire station. The city does not yet have an estimate of the repairs needed for the groups to occupy the building, though Sanphy said members of the call companies offered to do the labor themselves or pursue grants to cover the cost.

But several councilors objected to the idea.

Councilor John O’Hara said the city asked residents to pay for construction of a public safety building so Westbrook’s public safety services could come under one roof.

“I am in no way supporting the idea of opening another station at 41 Cumberland St.,” he said. “I don’t want to spend one more dime down there. It’s time to get out and shut the door and don’t look back.”

Attempts to reach the members of the fire/police division were not successful Thursday. A public records request for copies of the resignation letters has not yet been fulfilled. The mayor was in the call company until 2003 but declined to detail the causes of dissatisfaction for his former group.

“I feel kind of sad that it’s gone to where it’s gone, but I can’t speak for the individuals,” he said.

Turcotte said he has met with two of the four people who resigned.

“The two that I had a chance to meet with post-resignation stated they were leaving because they just didn’t have enough time to commit to the agency,” Turcotte wrote in an email Thursday. “Both of these individuals had been talking about leaving for many months.”

Turcotte said the department will work to fill the newly vacant positions. Members of the fire/police division are paid between $10 and $12.28 per hour.

“These resignations will not disrupt the department’s ability to respond to emergency calls for services or impact our delivery of those services to the community,” he said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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