|Select Board 10/11/2012|
Weathersfield Select Board
October 11, 2012
Present: Dan Boyer
Others Present: Jim Mullen, Town Manager
Lisa Slade, Recording Secretary
Peter Cole, Moderator
Tony Aldrich II
Amy Beth Main
Bette Jo Esty
The meeting is to discuss Fire Services and, was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Town Moderator, Mr. Peter Cole. Mr. Cole explained the purpose of the meeting and asked the public to address him, to keep their comments brief and not to include any personal attacks.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Town's fire services:
Mr. Boyer said a strength is we have two departments on two sides of town which means a quicker response time. He said a weakness is the duplication of equipment.
Mrs. Main said financing can be challenging for both sides.
Mr. Knight said duplicating of equipment will happen with two separate departments.
Mr. Dauphin said a weakness is for over forty years not the communication has been the same.
Mr. Shand said a strength is the two departments have come together and a weakness is there is not the same amount of training or the same type of training with both departments.
Mr. Mychael Spaulding said a weakness is the two departments are not willing to train together. Mr. Korbet asked why.
Mr. Howe said a strength is there are very dedicated members that volunteer their time.
Mrs. Dauphin said a weakness is personal problems being brought in.
Mr. Arrison said a plus is both departments are independent of the Town.
Mr. Mychael Spaulding said a plus is they save taxpayers money by raising money themselves.
Mr. Hazeltine said they are dedicated and proud of their equipment and what they do.
What ways do you suggest to overcome the perceived weaknesses:
Mr. Boyer said he has seen the training information for both departments and both departments are dedicated to training. He said there have not been any accidents due to lack of training.
Mr. Knight said the weakness would not be so bad if they had some support from the Chair of the Fire Commission, they are knocked down a lot and she should be more professional with comments.
Mr. Dauphin said the Select Board needs to be more involved and put their foot down. He said a letter was generated by the Select Board five years ago stating personal issues would stay out of the departments and this has happened.
Mr. Arrison said the Fire Commission was formed and the driving reason was for so the Select Board would not have to be involved. The Select Board is looking for both sides to talk with the Fire Commission and the Fire Commission to be their voice back to the Select Board. He said goals of the Fire Commission were drawn up a few years ago.
Mrs. Dauphin said professional people should be on the Fire Commission.
Mr. Todd said he wasn't on the Board five years ago and is not sure what personal issues there are. It was said Personnel should be discussed in Executive Session. Mr. Todd said the problem seems to be a personality conflict between the departments and he's not sure how to fix a personality conflict without getting personal.
Mr. Barrup said it's not between the departments, it's between people within the departments which means even with one department this we would still have this problem.
Mr. Merriam said he has been to several Fire Commission meetings and it appears the Fire Commission is for one side or the other.
Mr. Cassidy said he has been to a few meetings as well and the Fire Commission needs to be improved and not turn on one side.
Mr. Fuller said he sat on the Fire Commission and he needs to know specifics examples what the Fire Commission isn't doing.
Mr. Shand said by State Statute the Select Board determines how much fire equipment is needed in Town, the Select Board and Fire Commission should determine what is needed and also what training is needed based on the size of our Town.
Mr. Arrison said when Mr. Cobb was on the Board the question of how much equipment we should have in Town was asked and this has never been answered.
Mr. Korbet said if there is a lack of training between the two departments we should see what can be done so the departments can train together. He said personality differences may go away if they work together more.
Mr. Boyer said it has been mentioned in the past to have cross training, have different members of the departments train with each others equipment. Mr. Todd asked how members felt about this. Mr. Mychael Spaulding said some members are not cooperative, they have tried this in the past - it needs to be mandated. Mr. Knight said maybe the Fire Commission can set up the training and make it mandatory. Mr. Todd said he gets nervous about using mandatory and volunteer in the same sentence. Mr. Compo said some effort has been made from both sides in the past to train together, it just hasn't happened and he doesn't think it's because people are not trying. Mr. Boyer said both departments just recently did driving safety together. Mr. Mychael Spaulding said because that was mandatory if you want to drive a truck. Mr. Compo said members on both sides have fire fighting one which has mandatory requirements for training. Mr. Cassidy said we should plan training in advance and stick to that schedule.
What are the advantages to uniting the two fire departments into one fire department?
Mr. Knight said he doesn't think this will make a difference, we would need to build a bigger station and have a paid Chief.
Mrs. Murphy said there are non profits everywhere trying to figure out how to merge their 5013C's. She said we don't need one fire station, can still use two. She said there are 5013C's are independent organizations. Mrs. Murphy said if the departments are merged we may be able to get federal grants, right now we have a duplication of efforts.
Mr. Shand said the Ascutney Fire Department has talked about less duplication of equipment, improving communication, having one set of bylaws and trying to improve the amount of paperwork in the past.
Mr. Arrison questioned if there was just one department if it would become municipal or just volunteer like it is now, just be one department instead of two.
Mrs. Main asked what role the Town plays now as far as what they pay for. Mr. Boyer said they pay maintenance on town owned equipment, they pay insurance and registration of all vehicles and they pay workers compensation insurance.
Mr. Knight asked why the Town wants one department. Mr. Cole said we are just asking what advantage there would be to one department.
Mrs. Slade said the response time may be faster and there may be more personnel available to respond to the call especially during the day when so many members are at work.
What are the disadvantages to uniting the two fire departments into one fire department:
Mr. Knight said you would need to build a new fire station and the response time would be longer. He said the Town couldn't use the West Weathersfield station because that belongs to West Weathersfield Fire.
Mr. Mychael Spaulding said coordination of equipment.
Mr. Barrup said if you still used two stations you would still have duplication of equipment.
Mr. Compo said there are two Chiefs now doing massive amount of paperwork, maybe if there was one they would be full time and possibly have the help of another person with the paperwork.
Mr. Shand said he feels the two stations should be kept which means the members may need to have two sets of gear. He said you would have to decide if you would do separate fundraising and if you would have separate meetings or joint meetings. He said if the two departments become one it will have to be decided what to do with the departments as they are today, how would the lease from the State that the Ascutney Fire Departments land sits on be handled, how would the Chief's positions be structured etc.
Mr. Mychael Spaulding said you may have to have paid on call members. Mr. Dauphin said all members may need to be paid if it's a Town department.
What would a united fire department look like? Mr. Boyer said he envisions two stations still, maybe a joint Chief that could be a paid position.
Mr. Knight asked why only one person for both departments, he said the way it is now works fine. Mr. Todd said if it was working fine we wouldn't be having this meeting.
Mr. Howe questioned if the Town would have more control if there was only one department, he said if there is only one department then he feels it should be a Town department. Mr. Fuller said he agrees with Mr. Howe. Mr. Korbet asked Mrs. Murphy what her thought was from what she has seen. Mrs. Murphy said we can still merge the two departments and have two fire stations. She said the Select Board should consider having a feasibility study done to discuss what this would entail. We needs to look at how the assets would be handled, how the leases would be addressed, if we are eligible for more or fewer grants, what stumbling blocks there would be to overcome. This needs to be made up from people that are unbiased and unattached to the two departments and they need to report to the Select Board. Mr. Howe said when the alarm rings they go as one department but there is no way will this work if two guys are in charge, one guy needs to be in charge if there is only one department. Mr. Girard said a Municipal department can still form a 5013C.
Mr. Barrup said you would still have the same volunteers with the same attitudes if there was only one department.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Fire Commission:
Mrs. Main asked what the mission of the Fire Commission is. Mr. Boyer said the mission was to communicate between the two departments and back to the Select Board. Mrs. Dauphin said the Chair of the Fire Commission needs to be unbiased. Mr. Fuller said the Fire Commission members vote on the Chairperson.
Mr. Howe said the weakness seems to be they have no say, they need to have authority.
Mr. Barrup said it may be a good thing if they don't have any say.
Mr. Arrison said the Fire Commission has goals and objectives and it appears they may have trouble staying focused on them, maybe they should be listed on an easel at each meeting as a reminder.
Mr. Knight said the two outside members should not have anything to do with either department.
Mr. Korbet asked if the fire Commission could serve as head of the departments since the two Chiefs are members of the Board. Mr. Boyer said he feels one person needs to be in charge not, a five member committee.
Mr. Shand said the Fire Commission does not have any authority. He can remember Chief Rodney Spaulding and himself going to the Select Board along with members of West Weathersfield, there is an advantage to having an intermediary but he agrees the Fire Commission does not have enough authority.
Mr. Girard said since the Fire Commission does not have any authority he feels the Select Board refers tot he Fire Commission as a dumping spot.
Mrs. Daniels said each year there is a vacancy on the Fire Commission and it is hard to fill just those two positions. It would be even harder if those people could not be "related" to the departments at all.
Mr. Compo said he believes Mr. Knight was referring to his father being on the Fire Commission. He said if there are restrictions of who can be on the Commission, how far do we go. Mr. Knight said he thought Josh's father was on the Ascutney department.
Mr. Fuller said he is not aware of decisions that have been made to benefit one department more than the other. If no relatives can serve on this then no relatives can serve on the Cemetery Commission, for the Library etc.
Mrs. Murphy asked if the Fire Commission has a conflict of interest statement that they signed. Mr. Boyer said there is not a written signed document but they fall under the Town umbrella for conflict of interest. Mrs. Dauphin said the conflict of interest should be used. Mr. Arrison said a conflict of interest is not an opinion.
What ways do you suggest to overcome the perceived weaknesses:
Mrs. Daniels said make the two members that are appointed elected.
Mr. Girard said add more members, maybe have eight members.
Mr. Arrison said there needs to be someone with authority to say enough is enough.
Mr. Todd asked how Chiefs were elected. Mr. Cole said they are elected by their department members.
Mrs. Main went on Town of Weathersfield's website and read the goals that are listed. They are: The Commission shall act as a conduit for communications with the Select Board and Town Manager, the Commission shall facilitate communications between the two fire departments, to foster cooperation between Weathersfield's two fire departments, to foster development of water resources for fire fighting purposes, to achieve an improved insurance services office rating for the whole Town of Weathersfield, to present the Select Board during budget development sessions the annual operating expense needs for both departments, to advise the Select Board regarding the long-term capitol needs of the departments, to improve coordination and communication by and between all public safety operatives of the of the locality and bi-state region, to plan joint training drills and other activities involving the two departments - this to be done with the assistance of the Select Board and the townspeople when appropriate, to be a source of fire prevention education to townspeople, to work with and coordinate the following groups: Weathersfield Police Department, Vermont State Police, Windsor County Sheriff, highway maintenance and mutual aid.
Mr. Mychael Spaulding it doesn't seem like any of that has gotten accomplished except the hydrant work, maybe we should get rid of it.
Mr. Dauphin said we are so far away from this maybe we do need an easel and focus on the goals.
Mr. Barrup said the Fire Commission should focus on goals only.
Mr. Dauphin said maybe the Fire Commission could help with some of the Chiefs paperwork.
What ways do you suggest to stop any future "back stabbing" of one department by another and by the public of a department.
Mr. Knight said he doesn't have a problem with Ascutney fire and the problem is gossip and hearsay.
Mr. Todd said gossip is back stabbing and the gossip needs to stop. If someone has a problem with someone they should go and talk to that person.
Mr. Barrup said sometimes you can't go to the person you have the problem with and that gossip stems from personal issues.
Mrs. Dauphin said the person with the personal problem should take a leave of absence and when people to confront the person they have a problem with the cops get called.
Mrs. Esty said sometimes one has to make a decision to just let it go. If you want to be a volunteer then move on and let it go.
Mr. Korbet said the Town has a citizens complaint policy and people can file a written complaint. Mr. Knight added that complaints need to be signed.
Mr. Arrison said he has been in Weathersfield for thirty years and was a member of the Ascutney fire department for twenty years. He said while he has seen highs and lows between the departments he feels we are at a low spot right now. He said area towns have similar problems and encouraged members to clean it up.
Does the Town have an adequate budget for Fire Services:
Mr. Howe said not for the amount of hours that the Volunteers spend on raising funds for their departments. He said to outfit one member it is thousands of dollars.
Mr. Boyer said many departments would say they are not adequately funded.
Mr. Fuller said the prices of fire trucks have increased significantly, like highway equipment, and this is going to get worse. He said the Grand List is nor increasing and we need to look carefully at spending when the budget is discussed.
Mr. Howe said he agrees with looking at the expense of equipment carefully however, he is talking safety equipment not trucks.
Mrs. Murphy said as a taxpayer we need to support the Fire Department with the general fund. We need to provide safety gear for the members.
Mr. Boyer said the Town gives over $120,000 to the two departments already and there are grants that can be applied for turn out gear.
Mr. Darrin Spaulding gave comparisons of Westminster's and Arlington, Vermont budget which have like size communities with multiple stations.
Mr. Main said as a volunteer he spent two hundred hours to be certified for fire fighter one and he feels he should have the proper safety gear.
Mr. Slade said the Select Board recently weighed whether or not the purchase of a new truck should even go before the voters and once it did it was passed. She said she has asked for more police presence in Town which in turn would increase the police budget and she is asking the Select Board to put the budgets before the voters and let the voters decide how much they want to spend for emergency services.
Mr. Howe asked where this goes now. Mr. Boyer said it will be back on the Select Board agenda for further discussion.
At 9:20 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.
Approved by the Weathersfield Select Board on November 5, 2012
|Last Updated on Monday, 19 November 2012 08:10|