TOWNSEND -- After more than 40 years of service, Townsend Fire Chief Donald Klein is saying his goodbyes to the department this Friday.
Klein, who joined the fire department in 1970 and became the fire chief in 2007, reflected on both his accomplishments and his vision for the future of the Townsend Fire/EMS Department.
"I've enjoyed my time here and especially my time as Chief of the department, and I'm hoping that the department continues on the same track that we've got it on and we see continued growth in our ability to provide the services that the town needs today and into the future," Klein said.
Klein said he sees overseeing the merger of the Fire and EMS departments as one of his greatest accomplishments as chief, along with controlling the budget and putting together a long-term capital plan.
Klein said he hopes to see the department's next chief, who will be chosen by selectmen in April, oversee the completion of a new fire station headquarters, an $11.3 million project that will go before voters at the May 6 Town Meeting.
"The current buildings are not going to last us much longer. We need to do something and a new station would go a long way to accomplishing that," Klein said.
The new station would serve West and Central Townsend, and would allow the department to close down its four oldest fire stations. The station in Townsend Harbor would remain open.
"The cost alone of trying to operate five buildings is getting to the point where it's not sustainable.
He also sees other challenges for whoever takes over his position, including a decrease in the number of call firefighters that he said is likely to continue.
"The town is going to see over the next five to 10 years an increase in the number of full-time Fire/EMS staff. I don't see call going away entirely, but I do see number of call firefighters, being reduced and full-time increasing," Klein said. "The training and time commitment for call folks is such that with families and jobs, it's just not something that they can balance unfortunately, but that's the way it seems to be going not only in Townsend, but across the country."
Until a new fire chief is chosen, Deputy Chief David Roy has been appointed the acting chief, with Capt. Mike Grimley running the day-to-day operations.
Klein said he has little doubt that the transition will run smoothly until a new chief is chosen.
"I think that the deputy chief and full time captain are more than capable of running things for the short term as a group, but over the long term there really needs to be a full-time chief in place because strategically, that's the reason the chief is here - to work on long term projects," Klein said.
While Klein said he is excited for his retirement plans, which include a run for selectman this spring, the end of his time in the fire department is bittersweet.
"I've put a lot of time into fire services, I was in college when I started, so now to see it coming to an end, it's going to be hard to walk away," Klein said. "I'm looking forward to retirement, but not being part of the organization is going to be a little tough at first."