Issues with the Aug. 4 Huber’s Market burn have led Wiscasset to pull T.J. Merry as fire chief and review department policies, according to documents Town Manager John O’Connell provided Monday and his other responses this week. O’Connell said Peter Rines is interim chief and Merry is still a member of the department.
The Wiscasset Newspaper has sought comment from Rines and Merry. A memo and the emails O’Connell released cite policy and Maine Department of Environmental Protection issues with the Huber’s burn.
O’Connell’s Sept. 4 memo to fire department members states he reluctantly had to inform them he removed Merry from the chief’s job. “The events that precipitated this action relate to the burning of the Huber building ... where (Maine Fire Service Institute) Live Burn Policy was not followed and required permits were not obtained.”
As chief, Merry bore the responsibility for “any deficiencies,” O’Connell writes. O’Connell took the action after consulting DEP, MFSI, Maine Municipal Association and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, according to the memo.
Asked Tuesday if Merry’s removal was a suspension or a firing/termination, and if he was still a member, O’Connell said Merry is a member and, he reiterated, Merry has “been removed … from his position of Fire Chief.”
Associated Contract Services is developing the site for Dollar General, O’Connell said. In a Sept. 5 email to DEP, ACS Vice President Matthew Tucker cites Northeast Laboratory Services’s results of sampled material from the site. “The results show that there is no contaminated material and disposal at a standard C&D landfill should suffice.”
Responding to Tucker the same day, DEP’s Eric Hamlin, an environmental specialist in the agency’s solid materials management division, writes: “Since a total metals analysis was not done (and not required), I don’t think you can say that the material is uncontaminated. However, what the analysis does show is that the levels of RCRA metals are comfortably below the thresholds where they would be considered hazardous waste.”
Hamlin advises Tucker to confirm the ash’s disposal by providing receipts for transportation and landfill tipping. “At that point, you’ll be clear to move forward with redevelopment of that portion of the parcel.”
Wiscasset also has a plan. O’Connell’s memo tells firefighters Interim Chief Rines, “a respected, knowledgeable and longtime member,” will, with members’ help, review and update policies, procedures and training files.
“The Wiscasset Fire Department is an integral part of the town and enjoys strong support from the voters ... The department is also fortunate to have dedicated firemen who have loyally served the town, in some cases, for generations. A well-trained and effective department is essential for the welfare of the town and that is our goal.”