What will fire service look like in Orono in the future?

Nobody yet knows and no decisions were made at the Orono City Council meeting on Monday, June 13, but council member Victoria Seals asked that both cities - Long Lake and Orono - take a step back and start talking again.

“We owe to ourselves and the residents just to chill out for a second and take a moment and have a sit down with them,” Seals said during the mayor and council report portion of the 50 minute meeting. “I feel like we are shooting things across the bow, and not the best communications to be honest. Both cities can do better.”

She asked that both cities return to negotiations in an effort to figure out what is best for fire services between the two cities.

“I don’t think the negotiations need to stop. I still think there is an opportunity to sit down and see what we agree on,” she said. “It does not make sense to have a Long Lake Fire Department and an Orono Fire Department. It just doesn’t. We both think we are right and both are trying to come from a good place. I do feel like there is some middle ground that we just haven’t found yet. We have an opportunity to do better. I think we need to pause for a second and figure this out.”

Council member Richard Crosby II responded, saying the city of Orono is moving ahead.

“We will respect the history of Long Lake Fire but this is going to happen and they have to recognize that,” Crosby said. “This has nothing to do with performance. The thing to understand is that this is a business decision. There’s been a lot of rhetoric, thinking that its about their performance or the way the fire department has done something. That’s not the case. This is a math decision. We pay 85 percent of the bill, we’re going to have our name on the door. It’s that simple. They do not have the budget we have. We are paying the bills, we need to be able to make the decisions, it’s that simple. We are stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. How do you spend 85 percent of the money for a fire department and have no say? That’s the situation we are in. This is what is right for the city of Orono. This is really legitimately what’s right for both communities. So that needs to be said. It’s a dollar and cents thing, that’s what it comes down to.”

Council member Matt Johnson said he’s just looking for the best possible solution for fire services.

“I’m not going to close the door to any concept,” he said. “What our goal and what our responsibility is to have the best fire service for our Orono residents. Maybe there is a way for us to actually provide Long Lake fire coverage for less than what they can do for themselves right now.”

In other council action, the council approved a motion to accept a bid from JDD Studio for $6,600 for plans to remodel the kitchen at the Orono Golf Course. The city is looking to upgrade and remodel the kitchen at the golf course to expand its menu to include pizza, popcorn, hot dogs, sandwiches, and draft beer.

That will require upgrades for hand sinks, prep sinks, compartment sinks, refrigeration, and food prep equipment as well as upgrades for health department required and food safe finishes.

The estimated cost of remodeling the kitchen is $50,000 to $75,000. The proposed upgrades would need to be approved through the CIP for 2023. If approved in the CIP, the upgrades could take place as soon as 2023 during the golf course’s winter closure. Currently, the updates and architectural plans are not in the CIP and any costs for these would come out of the Parks Fund. The projected 2022 end of year balance for the fund is $285,000.

The council also accepted the resignation of Community Development Director Jeremy Barnhart, effective June 25. Barnhart has been in the Community Development Department for the past 7 years. The council also appointed Laura Oakden as interim Community Development Director. She is currently a planner with the department and has been with the city for five years.

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