CAVENDISH, Vt. – Former Cavendish Fire Chief Shane Turco had a busy day Sunday, April 7. In mid-afternoon, Turco appeared at the Cavendish Fire Department to receive a formal letter of thanks for his 20 years of service from now Acting Chief Abraham Gross and to pick up his helmet and other gear that he owns. Later, at approximately 6:30 p.m. he was welcomed as the newest volunteer at the Proctorsville Fire Station, one mile down the road.
This latest defection leaves the numbers of the Cavendish Fire Dept. at six active members according to Gross, increases the Proctorsville team to 26, and is a harsh blow to the CFD who has been struggling with dwindling numbers, as both fire districts are feeling increasing town pressure to merge.
Turco’s resignation was widely learned Tuesday morning, April 2, the morning after he attended the CFD District 2 Meeting the night before. One of four attendees, Turco made no formal announcement of resignation that night but it became public knowledge the next day. According to Turco, he admits that may have blindsided fellow member Stuart Lindberg, chair of the CFD Board who was also at the meeting on Monday night. According to Turco, their conversation that Tuesday was very heated.
“He was upset,” he said. According to Turco, Lindberg especially didn’t want him to join Proctorsville. Lindberg expressed to Turco that since he had defended and supported Turco as chief that if he went over to Proctorsville, it would be as if he were “kicking him while he’s down,” Turco said.
Turco doesn’t see it that way. With CFD having so few volunteers, Turco was worrying about making calls and the stress was starting to affect his work. “I feel responsible. I feel like I have to make every call.” Joining PFD just made sense to Turco since he wanted to continue serving in the community he lives in. “It’s a load of stress off my shoulders,” he said.
With Turco’s 20 years of experience as a volunteer fire fighter and a certified EMT, PFD was happy to have him join their ranks. “They have respect for me doing that type of work and they’ve known me for the same 20 years that I’ve had down here [in Cavendish],” he said.
Once learning of his resignation, CFD locked Turco out of the fire station so that he couldn’t retrieve his gear that was his personal property. They also locked out Turco’s girlfriend, Ashley Williams, assuming she was leaving the CFD as well, although no one from CFD had a conversation with her.
During Sunday afternoon, Turco met Abe Gross and Bob Evans at CFD and was able to retrieve his gear then. At that time, he was formally thanked by Gross and handed a letter of thanks for his service.
Now that Turco is officially a member of the Proctorsville Fire Dept., he is looking ahead and thinks that merging the two fire districts is the “only thing that makes sense.” He also expressed his confidence in the leadership of the PFD. “I think Proctorsville officers are higher trained and they have a higher level [of knowledge].”
In the immediate future, Turco is looking forward to additional training himself, with ice water rescue training happening next week. PFD is also starting the process of becoming trained in active shooter response.
Meanwhile CFD and acting Chief Abe Gross will look to add volunteers to their team and want to assure citizens that “any fire call will continue to be responded to by all available Cavendish Fire members and simultaneously-dispatched Proctorsville Fire Department, with mutual aid agreements providing additional coverage if neither of those agencies are available or respond with insufficient personnel for the task at hand.”
Stuart Lindberg declined further comment replying only, “As chair of the CFD2 board, I will not be making any statements until after our legally warned monthly meeting in May.”
In a further development, PFD volunteer Amy Perry stood at the start of the Cavendish Selectboard Meeting Monday, April 8, and read a multi-page statement asking for the removal of Stuart Lindberg from the Selectboard. She cited several incidents of Lindberg angrily engaging with PFD personnel, both in person and via phone, in response to Turco’s recent decision to leave CFD and join PFD.
Lindberg’s response led to an accusation toward Perry, which she then denied. Board Chair Robert Glidden stepped in to stop the heated conversation from going further.
At that point, Town Manager Brendan McNamara stepped in saying, “What we’re not going to do is we are not going to get into a debate about the two fire departments…that is not what this board, at this juncture, is about.”
At that point, Board Member Sandra Russo interrupted saying to Lindberg, “Amy really attacked you personally and I think that’s what you should respond to. I just find all of this a bit appalling.”
Lindberg agreed it was appalling and said that he would let his reputation speak for itself. Lindberg finished his remarks on the subject saying, “I’ll let that stand and I won’t say anything else for the benefit of the town.”
On Tuesday, April 9, McNamara confirmed by phone that there would be no further action taken by the Selectboard based on Perry’s comments.