SOUTH THOMASTON — The town is facing an across-the-board shortage of workers.

The issue came up during the South Thomaston Selectboard’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The fire department and emergency medical services departments have considerable shortages, Select Board Chair John Spear said.

Fire Chief Bryan Calderwood said Dec. 1 that staffing is the lowest he has seen since became chief in 2006. The department has 15 members and the chief said he would like to see it around 40.

“Even with the roster being low we are still responding on our calls along with mutual aid requests and still haven’t missed a call. The amount of firefighters that respond might be lower then we are used to per call but we are still responding,” the chief said.

“Part of the reason it is low in my opinion is due to time of people due to their work schedules family time, etc. At this point all I can do is keep trying to gather more members by advertising with signs out front of the station, notification on the Town website, and the Department’s Facebook page,” Calderwood said.

The chief reached out to Oceanside High School and said of 30 students from the town who were sent notifications of the need for firefighters, there were no responses.

The chief said regionalization would solve some current problems but was not sure it will fix the issue.

Spear said he supports regionalization, depending on how it is designed.

“Change is a big undertaking if the local fire departments regionalize but it’s a discussion that needs to happen. All the fire departments are here to protect and serve the citizens of Knox County,” Calderwood said.

The Knox County Chiefs Association is working on this topic and is researching options.

Spear said the emergency medical services department also has a shortage although not as acute as the fire department.

In August, Rockland’s fire chief warned the stalled effort to consolidate emergency services is a threat to continued services.

Rockland Fire Chief Christopher Whytock said a political dispute between Camden and Rockport stalled the momentum generated for the collaboration between departments. Camden filed a lawsuit against Rockport on June 21, claiming Rockport failed to pay what it owes for sewer fees.

In early 2019, talks began between Camden, Rockport, and Rockland about creating a regional emergency medical service for this region of Knox County. That later turned to talks about regionalizing fire and emergency medical services.

Public safety is not the only area where there are shortages of workers.

Spear said he has been concerned about the growing shortage of workers prior to the pandemic but that the pandemic has accelerated the problem.

The Select Board received the resignation notice of Code Enforcement Officer Dan Dates who is also the town’s licensed plumbing inspector. Dates is also an electrician and Spear said he told the town he does not have time to continue with the code officer duties.

Dates held the post for about a year. The Board Chair said Dates told the town that the 15 hours per week budgeted for the post is not adequate for what is required. Spear said that will likely be discussed for the upcoming budget deliberations.

The town has vacancies of one full member and two alternate members on the Planning Board, and two full members and two alternate positions are vacant on the Board of Appeals.

Spear said the shortage of workers is not just affecting town employees. The town has had difficulties finding contractors to do work in the town. The town has tried to get its tennis courts rebuilt but has not been able to get anyone to bid on the project.

The statewide shortage of workers has been attributed to Maine having one of the oldest populations in the country, and the pandemic hastened many of those people to retire, leaving a gap between the number of workers needed and the number available. Too few people are also entering the trades such as electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling.