To the Editor: Losing qualified personnel 

To the Editor: 

Dear Bar Harbor Community, 

We, the Bar Harbor Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4666, are writing this letter to reach out, inform and clarify to the community several concerns regarding retention and recruitment at the Bar Harbor Fire Department. 

Currently, the department is budgeted to staff four full-time firefighters a day, 365 days a year. The department breaks this schedule down between 12 employees, working a 24-hour shift every third day. Our Local (union) began addressing these concerns via contract negotiation last October. The major concern addressed was the pay disparity between our department compared to departments in similar and surrounding communities. In the past year, BHFD has lost three employees, all of whom have accepted firefighting jobs with neighboring departments. These departments are providing these highly trained individuals with higher wages, more manageable shift schedules and increased retirement benefits.  

These employees accounted for 25 percent of our workforce. Not only did we lose highly trained employees, but the town has also struggled to find qualified replacements for them. This has led to a decrease in daily staffing levels and has left our town regularly understaffed for emergency coverage. We have had to increase our reliance on the surrounding towns to help handle some of our emergency calls. This creates the possibility that if you were to call 911, you will be waiting longer for emergency responders from a neighboring town to arrive.  

As members of this department, we have major concerns about this potential delay. This community’s safety is our top priority, and we strive to provide the highest level of service.  

We believe it is important that everyone in our community is made aware of the current situation. Unfortunately, this problem does not seem to be going away in the foreseeable future.  

The entire state has a shortage of qualified firefighters and EMS providers. Due to the town’s lower wages, lower retirement benefits, increased cost of living in this area and lack of affordable housing, the Bar Harbor Fire Department has found it difficult to compete with other fire departments to recruit and retain qualified employees.  

We hope that if you also are concerned about these issues that you speak out to your local Town Council members and town manager.  

Bar Harbor Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4666 

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