Members of the Durham Board of Selectmen pressed longtime Fire Chief Bill St. Michel last week as to whether he will be staying or he will be going, but when the discussion ended, St. Michel left the room with the same answer: “Once affairs are in order, I’ m going to leave,” St. Michel said at the April 21 board meeting. “I just want to make sure we make it through the transition.”

Though some board members wanted a more definitive answer, Chairman Jeff Wakeman and Joshua Libby said they were OK with that.

“I feel like we’re going to be all right,” Libby said.

Wakeman did point out, however, that St. Michel said earlier he would resign his position immediately if he did not receive his requested 5 percent increase on his $55,224 salary. At the annual town meeting on April 4, residents voted for a $292,860 operating budget for Durham Fire & Rescue, which gave St. Michel a 2 percent raise.

The next week, after returning to the job from family leave, St. Michel , a 42-year veteran of the fire department, said he would leave once he gets the affairs of the fire department in order.

To begin the discussion on April 21, Selectman Mark Blake asked where matters stand regarding St. Michel’s status as fire chief. St. Michel responded that, with a 2 percent raise on the table, he would leave once “affairs are in order.”

Blake wasn’t satisfied with that.

“My recommendation would be to set a definitive date,” he said. “This is not our decision, so it’s not our place to say when.”

St. Michel repeated the same answer, then Wakeman and Selectwoman Sarah Hall both referred to a selectmen’s meeting held prior to the town meeting.

“The feeling I got was if (the 5 percent raise) didn’t go, you would be leaving right away,” Wakeman said. “It would be nice to have a little better idea of when affairs are in order. It’s a little vague.”

“He implied he would be leaving immediately after the vote,” Hall said.

Blake said he doesn’t want the town to be in this situation a year from now.

“People are starting to ask questions,” he said. “If you’re going to stay, that’s fine. I’m not asking you to leave.”

St. Michel responded, “I don’t know what to say – I don’t have a definite date.”

That wasn’t good enough for Blake.

“We’re either looking for a fire chief, or we’re not,” Blake said. “I didn’t make the ultimatum, Bill did. We need some clarity.”

Bill St. Michel

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