Selectmen to question potential Fire Department auditors Tuesday

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. Rockport selectmen will interview two auditors Tuesday before choosing one to audit the town Fire Department, headquartered on Broadway. 1/4/21

ROCKPORT — On Tuesday evening, selectmen will interview two potential auditors for the upcoming survey of the Rockport Fire Department. 

The interviews will be held at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

The two firms vying for the position are John Parow Consulting & Associates of Chelmsford and Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith, New Hampshire, which carried out audits of Gloucester's fire and police departments in 2009. Both have experience in fire services, according to Town Administrator Mitch Vieira, and were the only firms that responded to the town's Request for Quotation.

Town officials began soliciting offers from potential auditors in December after the town’s volunteer firefighters threatened to quit en masse unless Emergency Service Director Mark Schmink and Assistant Fire Chief Steven Abell Jr. were removed from their Fire Department supervisory duties. The emergency service director position was temporarily dissolved the following week. Schmink remains as assistant chief of the Rockport Police Department and Abell still holds his job.

Firefighters agreed to stay on when the town agreed to conduct an audit of the department. 

The firm selected for the study will determine whether having an emergency service director is a position worth keeping. In addition, the auditor will be tasked with reviewing and making possible recommendations to improve department operations, structure, staffing, management and budgeting. A minimum of 16 hours per week will be required for the job.

"The final cost for the work depends on which vendor is selected as each has submitted plans to carry out the work using some different methods," Viera told the Times in email. "This also includes different timelines. ... (Selectmen) could make a decision at that meeting or at a later date if they have any questions or need further information from either or both firms."

Fire Chief James Doyle has been on administrative leave from the department since Nov. 10, the day after firefighters sent their letter and threatened to walk out.  Town officials have said Doyle's leave is due to a "personnel matter," and not at all related the ongoing controversy at department

Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Keating has since been filling in for Doyle.

More information on how to join the Zoom meeting online or by phone is available by visiting www.rockportma.gov and clicking on the "Posted Meetings" tab. 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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