VERNON — The Vernon Select Board thanked the members of its fire department advisory committee for their work by unanimously approving their recommendation of Alex Dunklee as the town’s new fire chief.
“He fits the bill very well,” said David Emery, speaking for the committee.
Select Board Chairman Chris Parker said after the vote was taken Wednesday night that the advisory committee had picked a strong candidate who can rebuild the Vernon Fire Department, its relationships with the community, and the morale of its firefighters.
“There’s no doubt the person is you,” Parker said to Dunklee during the meeting, which was held both online and in person at the Vernon Town Office.
On Sept. 22, Parker posted a letter to the town website stating the Select Board had disbanded the fire department and its emergency squad after a group of 10 firefighters and EMS providers expressed concerns of toxicity, unsafe practices, lack of in-house training, and overall lack of leadership at the department.
On Oct. 14, under the leadership of Deputy Chief Zach Rounds, a lieutenant and advanced emergency medical technician at Rescue Inc, the town’s rebuilt EMT squad responded to its first call and has responded to 15 more since then.
It has signed up 12 members, nine of whom are currently active.
It took a bit longer to find a leader for the fire department, but Emery said the committee fully supports Dunklee, citing his credentials, including being a former member of the fire department. Dunklee was also a “live-in student” at the East Windham, Maine, Fire Department while pursuing his associate’s degree in fire science and completing a certificate program in welding. Dunklee lives in Vernon, where he was born and raised, and works at Renaud Brothers as a metal fabricator. He also handcrafts wood and steel furniture.
Dunklee was member of the committee with Emery, Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi, Guilford Fire Chief Jared Bristol, Marylynn Scherlin, Chris LaFlam, Alex Dunklee and Jason Veaudry.
“I’m honored to serve,” said Dunklee, who was a member of the VFD, starting as an explorer in 1998 and eventually leaving in 2009 as a captain.
There is not date yet for when the Vernon Fire Department might be back in commission. The town is currently being covered by the departments in Brattleboro, Guilford and Bernardston, Mass., along with mutual aid departments around the region.
Parker thanked the committee for helping to make sure the town’s fire department is “well trained, well cared for and put together properly.”
“You guys have done an amazing job,” he said.
In other business, the town is looking at setting some guidelines after receiving a complaint that an unidentified business had “excessively” used the town’s recycling program by disposing of 18 yards of materials.
The board, which learned that while the disposal was “excessive” but not “irregular,” will look at clarifying the rules so that it’s clear the taxpayer funded program is only for residential disposal.