7259 Route 131, Perkinsville, Vermont
Monday, June 11, 2018
Commission Members Present: Tim Austin
Darrin Spaulding (at 8PM)
Town Manager, Ed Morris
David Picknell Cheryl Watson Travis Compo Tracy Dauphin
Natoshya Spaulding Richard Watson Michael Barrup Lori (?)
1) Call to Order
Ms. Nutile McMenemy (Nutile-McMenemy) called the meeting to order at 7:02 PM.
2) Additions or deletions to this agenda
Ms. Murphy: The Select Board will meet with the Fire Commission and the two fire departments on August 13th to discuss a wide variety of topics (fire service matrix, John Woods recommendations, etc.). The meeting will be held at Martin Memorial Hall.
Mr. Dauphin said that WWVFD had voted to ask the Town to start working on what a municipal fire department would look like. Ms. Murphy asked Mr. Dauphin to make his request to the Select Board at the next select board meeting on June 18th at 7PM at the Center Church.
Ms. Murphy said a discussion regarding the RTF (Rescue Task Force) expense will be on the June 18th agenda – AVFD submitted a request for reimbursement of an equipment expense. The request was denied and the select board received an email stating that the board was not in support of firefighter safety. The payment has been resubmitted so the board will have a discussion about it on the 18th.
Mychael Spaulding said he has concerns about firefighter life safety when going on certain calls. He said it's not “if” someone gets hurt, but rather “when” someone gets hurt. It's training and leadership and it refers to something he had seen this week. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said the Commission would need more details before it could take any action. Mr. Morris advised filing a formal complaint as the Commission meeting was not the proper forum to complain at. Ms. Murphy suggested that if the complaint was in regard to scene safety that Mr. Spaulding request a discussion about it at the next Commission meeting. Mr. Dauphin pointed out that “complaint policy” was a discussion already on this meeting agenda.
3) Comments from the public about items not on the agenda - None
4) Approve the previous Meeting Minutes - Meeting Date: May 14, 2018
Motion: To approve the minutes as submitted.
Made by: Ms. Murphy Second: Mr. Austin
Vote: Unanimous in favor
5) Fire Chiefs Reports
i) Chief Dauphin-West Weathersfield Fire Department
ii) Chief Spaulding-Ascutney Volunteer Fire Association (and Roster) – Postponed until Mr. Spaulding's arrival
Motion: To start the commission meetings at 7PM at alternating fire stations (except for the August 13th meeting which will be at Martin Hall)
Made by: Mr. Austin Second: Mr. Dauphin
Vote: Unanimous in favor
6) Old Business
i) Letter from Michael Lewallen
Mr. Lewallen was unable to attend the meeting. This item was tabled to the next meeting.
ii) Financial Review -YTD update
The Commission reviewed the latest financial report. Mr. Morris said revenues are up slightly and they are at 78% for expenditures. They look to be on par to be under budget although a few expenses still remain. Mr. Morris is looking into putting some of the surpluses in the reserves so that it doesn't have to revert back into the general fund.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked for reinstatement of the monthly list of calls by each department. She asked that it be a report that the departments already have to do for the state so as not to add more tasks for the departments.
iii) Department Relations-Josh
Tabled until Mr. Spaulding could participate.
iv) Incident Photography-Town, Fire Departments Policies-Josh
v) Complaint Policy-Josh
vi) Hazardous Materials Response Ordinance (8/3/15)
Ms. Murphy said the Select Board had not made any changes to the ordinance. Mr. Morris said the Board is waiting for the Commission to do their review and make comments. Ms. Murphy said that #8(c) - regarding reimbursement procedures – needs to mesh with the Fire Agreement.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked if any data had been received from area fire departments regarding reimbursements? Mr. Morris said the numbers are “all over the place”. State statutes require reimbursement of only direct costs. Mr. Morris said these costs should be calculated for Weathersfield rather than try to use data from other towns. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said she thought that's how it should be done. Mr. Morris said he could work with the highway department to generate some of the data.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked if the current rates are generating a surplus? Covering expenses? Mr. Dauphin said they are generating a surplus. 100% of it goes to the department if the truck is owned by the department. For a town-owned truck, 25% goes to the town, 75% goes to the department. The expenses are taken from the reimbursement, but it definitely generates income for the departments.
Ms. Murphy asked if the cost of labor is broken out separately or is it rolled into the cost of the equipment (for departments with paid firefighters)? Mr. Dauphin said it would probably be broken out.
Mr. Dauphin said several years ago, the rates used to be lower, but there was a man-hour that they billed out ($20/hr) for personnel that responded. The department would keep the reimbursement for the labor instead of giving it to the firefighters. Seven years ago, when this ordinance was revamped, the labor part was taken out and rolled into the cost of the trucks which brought the rates up.
Mr. Dauphin said it seems to be the same people always responding to calls and when an incident takes many hours, it is asking a lot for them to take that time from their jobs. He said he had had discussions with Colin Butler about reinstating an hourly rate for the responders and giving them a 1099 at the end of the year (as consultants).
Ms. Murphy clarified that it was the select board that disallowed paying the labor costs. Mr. Morris said the statute allows recovery of all “reasonable and direct costs”. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy felt a stipend is certainly reasonable and that this would help with recruitment of new members. Mr. Morris said there may be a way to do that as well as provide a higher reimbursement for hazardous calls.
The firefighters are volunteers, but they are covered by the town's workmans compensation. However it is insufficient to provide reasonable income in the case where an injury results in time out of the firefighter's regular job. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy suggested using budget surplus to create a relief fund.
Ms. Murphy asked that the “no charge for labor rule” be brought back to the select board for further discussion, especially in light of the fact that three of the current board members were signers of the ordinance.
After considering the wide range of rates (and the especially low rate from FEMA), Mr. Morris again stated that it would be best for the town to do some research and calculate its own costs.
(There was much mosquito swatting during the meeting ... :) )
Agreed upon action steps:
• Have Mr. Morris research the costs to the town of hazmat responses and report back to the Fire Commission;
• Put on the next select board agenda a discussion of how the select board chose not to allow for labor costs in the reimbursement ordinance.
vii) Weathersfield Fires Services Reimbursement Ordinance (12/16/10)
This ordinance is in place to address calls other than hazmat incidents. Mr. Dauhpin said that billing can be complicated in some instances. When questioned whether it was a relevant ordinance, Mr. Morris said it is an important ordinance to have in place, but it's imperative that it be enforced consistently. If it can't be, then it should be eliminated.
The state has guidelines they use for incidents on state forest lands. Ms. Murphy suggested looking into their wording.
Mr. Morris said he was looking for recommendations from the Commission to bring back to the select board discussion. Ms. Murphy asked that the recommendations be as specific as possible. She also suggested having the departments look at it and comment on what works for them (or doesn't).
Mr. Morris said once the ordinance is written, it could be given legal review by VLCT and the town's attorney.
(Mr. Spaulding arrived at the meeting.) Ms. Nutile-McMenemy brought Mr. Spaulding up to speed on the discussions thus far.
Mr. Spaulding gave the monthly report for AVFD.
Ms. Murphy asked about joint calls. Mr. Spaulding said as of July 1st, if AVFD goes to a WWVFD incident, AVFD won't record it as a call for AVFD.
Mr. Spaulding read a roster of the AVFD personnel that included active members but not all members. He said he would try to have a complete roster to Ms. Murphy by Friday.
The Commission returned to the financial discussion.
Ms. Murphy had met with both departments and Mr. Morris to get an idea of the total cost of fire services to the town. It was based on the 2016-2017 operating budgets from both departments and the Fire Commission budget. Also included is the cost of the bond on the fire truck. The line items describing the expenses came from each departments' Quick Books financials. In some cases, descriptive notes might be warranted for clarification.
Mr. Morris said the truck payment is a loan payment (not a bond) of $45,800 annually.
There were questions regarding some of the AVFD finances that couldn't be answered because Mark Girard was not at the meeting.
Department Relations (including incident photography and complaint policy) – Mr. Dauphin
Received an email on May 11 at 5:07 from Mr. Spaulding stating that the school was doing a drill at 8:30 the next morning. He felt this was insufficient time to notify his members. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked Mr. Spaulding when he had learned about the drill. He said he knew a week prior to and said he had left two voicemails but did not hear back from Mr. Dauphin so he sent the text message/email. He said something about AT & T problems. Mr. Dauphin said he was out of town a week later he stopped in to talk to Ms. Oakmon – she had forwarded an email to him – it was dated April 3rd at 1:30 PM, “Darrin Spaulding just called and wanted to cancel the fire drill scheduled for tomorrow morning because of rain. ... We have scheduled it for next Thursday morning” (which would be the one that was happening) “Darrin has invited several fire department to observe.” He questioned why other means were not used to get in touch with him.
Mr. Dauphin continued – Ms. Oakmon had put together a letter to the staff on April 12th. It was sent to Mr. Morris, AVFD and multiple area fire departments. He felt there was a lot of notice to everyone. His membership felt it was a slap not to be notified until the night before.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy understood how he felt, but thought it was probably an oversight on Mr. Spaulding's part. She said she couldn't believe it was done intentionally (Mr. Spaulding said it was not intentional and repeated that AT &T was having problems for a month).
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said she didn't know how to handle this. She asked that in the future, if Mr. Spaulding isn't getting a response, to make an extra effort to make contact. Mr. Austin concurred and said if Plan A doesn't work, there needs to be a Plan B. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy acknowledged that AT & T was having trouble, but said it wasn't an excuse. Mr. Spaulding said he took full responsibility and said he should have done more, though he said he had proof that he had called Mr. Dauphin and both calls had gone directly to voicemail. Mr. Dauphin said he never received either message.
Mr. Dauphin said until very recently he had not been involved in the school since it had been consolidated in Ascutney. He said most of his department knows very little about the school.
Mr. Spaulding said it has been very difficult to get into this school until recently so as to do any kind of fire prevention work (for reasons that were difficult to understand). Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said that with the country's heightened awareness, this would most likely change soon.
Mr. Austin said there needs to be an update to the notification/training protocols based on this incident.
Mr. Morris said the need for both departments to participate in drills has been addressed at the school level. He said the communication among all of the emergency services is slowly coming around. It's been being worked on in the last couple of months. The two town departments communicating is top priority.
Incident Photography and Complaint Policy
Mr. Dauphin said there was an incident last November where a photograph was taken of a car including its license plate. The photo had been taken by a member of the WWVFD. He said Mr. Spaulding called him about some pictures of the vehicle that had been posted. Mr. Dauphin said he would look into it and take them down if there were posted photos. He said they never found any photos posted on Facebook.
Shortly after that there was a call at the trailer park. Again pictures were taken on scene and again posted. He didn't remember if it was on the department's page or a personal page.
Mychael Spaulding said, “The pictures all came back to me. We had a meeting with Darrin and I confronted him about it – since it had already gone around the town that I had done this – and I would never have put a picture of a fatality on Facebook ... The thought that we have a complaint policy and if there was still proof and there should have been some before it was brought to the police chief, brought out to the town – there's ways to go by...people need to be accountable if they're not going to follow that. We had a call three days later ... there was a fire...again I was accused of posting photos ... again there is a complaint policy.”
Darrin Spaulding said the AVFD SOGs address posting of photos on social media.
Mr. Austin said he had a problem with firefighters taking photos and posting them anywhere that's not authorized by the chief. He said he didn't understand why any of this even happened.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said any photos she took was as a reporter for a newspaper. When she posts things (on her business page) she never shows license plates or faces where appropriate or possible. She said if it was a fire where both departments had responded she would tag both departments.
Mychael said that's what happened – it wasn't something they had done, but they were accused of posting photos.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said if they “got nailed for something that I did” they should have told them that a reporter posted it. Mychael said he did that. Darrin Spaulding said there was another photo that you guys were filming taking up traffic cones on our fire trucks and on the interstate and it says in the SOGs no posting on social media unless approved by the chief.
Mr. Austin repeated that each department should have SOGs stating who can take pictures and what happens to them – there should be control over that. The liability could well exceed the budget.
Ms. Dauphin asked how Ms. Nutile-McMenemy knew about the fires. She said for a while it was via ACTIV, now it is through someone who monitors the calls. She was being paid to photograph fires. Mr. Spaulding said he was paying for the photos through the Fire Chief's budget. The newspaper (Vermont Standard) was also on the ACTIV because they wanted to cover Weathersfield. The people on ACTIV have now been changed because of active shooter training.
Ms. Murphy said, responding as a community member, when she views Facebook pages – regardless of the actual fire department – she wonders how any firefighter can have the time/opportunity to be taking pictures. She likes seeing postings following an event that state where the incident occurred, how many firefighters responded, etc. This creates a picture for community members to understand the commitment the members have, but in the moment, it creates a negative perception. She said she agreed with Mr. Austin about the liability that's created when scene photos are taken – things the photographer may not even be aware of. She talked about the need for uniform SOGs for the two departments, especially in light of this instance and now that both departments are going on calls together. Mr. Spaulding handed his department's recently updated SOGs to Mr. Dauphin. Ms. Murphy encouraged Mr. Dauphin to share WWVFD SOGs with Mr. Spaulding so the coordination process could begin. Mr. Dauphin said WW was in the process of redoing theirs right now.
Mr. Austin asked to have a policy from the departments addressing photographs ready for the next meeting and asked that it be on that agenda. Mychael Spaulding said the Commission had WW's on hand at this meeting. He said it came from Proctorsville and had been reviewed by WW's lawyer. He said the Town Manager had looked at it as well.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said the newspapers use photos taken by firefighters instead of paying photographers. Mr. Austin that should not be so. Private citizens can do whatever they like with their own phones and cameras, but fire departments must have control over their members and whatever photos they may take.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said she would no longer tag the fire departments. Mychael Spaulding said he didn't have a problem with that and didn't understand why it had caused such a problem. He said he did not see why there had been an issue when the posting clearly showed that it hadn't come from the department. He felt they had been accused of doing something they had not done and that the complaint policy had not been followed to register the complaint.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked if the complaint policy had been followed. Mr. Spaulding said he had gone to Mr. Dauphin to have a conversation about it. He felt the two chiefs ought to be able to talk about a problem without having to write out a formal compliant. He said he and Chief Daniels talked about it after that. (The photo was of a vehicle in which there was a fatality.) Mr. Dauphin said they could not find the photo on which the complaint was based.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said let this be a lesson learned. She said the departments should write a policy based on what has been learned. She agreed with Ms. Murphy's assertion that when the firefighters are on-scene they should not be on their phones. Mr. Austin said the policy should specify that all photos must be reviewed by the Chief and that any one taking photos must sign a document stating that they understand the policy and what will happen if they don't follow it.
There are times when photos and videos of firefighters in action are very helpful. It is only the posting of them on social media that needs oversight and control.
Ms. Murphy said each department has a complaint policy. The town has a written complaint policy which is for its employees. If a citizen has a complaint about a fire department, they go to the department and navigate the process there. She said, “I'm tired of listening to how the two departments are working well together when we get down to so many issues like this. I completely agree with Darrin ... we do not need a policy over communication. However, the communication has to happen. ... Go back in the fire commission meetings for years and it's the same thing regurgitated over and over and over again. ... The two fire chiefs have got to work together. It is no longer okay to just say, 'yes we're working well together' when there are so many instances where they are not. ... If there is something picked up, have a conversation. It does not mean a formal policy has to be addressed. Just like this topic coming up about gear being moved from one department to another, I was asked, 'should we have a policy?' Had the two fire departments come together and had a conversation, and then, if, after the conversation, there's clearly no route that you can do, then go to the next level. We've got to put the brakes on and have a communication. And both sides have got to communicate. ... I understand that every issue, one feels more slighted than the other, but it's got to change. ... Tim, when you talk about the rumor mill, ... there is a good percentage of that rumor mill that is started internally. The amount of resources that I personally put in to trying to track down, trying to correct something that was a complete falsification – that stuff has to be addressed. I think this is going to be the table. As much as it is going to drag on, bring it to this table, in front of the camera, and have a conversation and work through them. ... I am not talking about going backward. I am talking about drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'moving forward, we are going to openly communicate about these issues. I'm tired of the past. And you can't change it. But you can change moving forward. ... My hope is that eventually we're not going to have so many conversations, because everybody knows that it's coming to the table and it's going to be publicly addressed.”
Mr. Austin agreed. If everybody gets too tired for ...(?), bring a pillow, because we're here to ...(?)
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said there need to be ground rules. Emotions have to be left at the door. State the facts only and address the chair. No attacks.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said the two departments do appear to work well together when they are on scene.
viii) Fire Services Reimbursement Rates (12/16/10)
7) New Business
i) Turn-out Gear Policy
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said the first thing to establish is how was the gear purchased (whose funds)?
An AVFD firefighter left AVFD and went to WWVFD. He left his gear at AVFD. The gear is five years old. The purchasing funds are unknown.
He came to WWVFD and was wearing someone else's gear that seemed to fit.
Mr. Dauphin said the town owns all the gear in his department, purchased from either the allocation or the reserves. As far as he was concerned, the town owns it. 90% of the time gear is fitted for an individual. When someone moves from one department to the other, he said it doesn't make sense to spend $2000 on a new set of gear if the gear being left behind is still in good condition. He said he is extending the lives of his gear and replacing them much less often. NFPA does not specify when gear must be replaced. He replaces equipment when it doesn't pass inspection. He said he was trying not to waste taxpayer's money by leaving a set of equipment on the shelf (at AVFD). He said it all comes down to the matrix – one department. Equipment should be transferable.
Ms. Murphy asked if there had been a conversation about this between the chiefs. Mr. Dauphin said he had asked Darrin if Josh Compo's gear was being used or not. He said he brought this up because the communication between the departments for the last 30 years hasn't been there. If it is town-owned gear, it should travel with the firefighter.
Mr. Spaulding said, “You want me to give up that gear, what do I do for my ff2 that has no gear? It fits him. They are the same build.” AVFD budget is “right there right now”.
Mr. Austin said if the gear wasn't being used at AVFD, then it should go with the firefighter. But since it is being used at AVFD, then WW will have to get a new set for the new member.
Josh has been using a set of gear temporarily, but he needs gear that fits him. New gear will have to be purchased.
Mr. Dauphin said he will be handing in at the next meeting an inventory of each member and what we have for gear, including the age of the gear.
In the broader picture, bookkeeping must improve so that equipment can be tracked by the funds used with which to make them.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked if the issue had been resolved. Mr. Dauphin said it had been for him.
ii) ISO Rating of Town
Mr. Morris had left the meeting by this point so he could not be consulted. However the Commission reviewed the email that Mr. Morris had sent. All agreed that the rating is not likely to change much. The Wood report recommended finding out what the ISO rating was because it was not known at the time the report was written. It is 8B/10 as of June 26, 2017.
The rural nature of Vermont and the town's lack of municipal water keeps the rating where it is. However there is room for improvement.
iii) Little Ascutney Dry Hydrant update
The hydrant is due to be fixed this week.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked if there were any dry hydrant issues on the Ascutney side of town. Mr. Spaulding said there is a pond right beside the road on South Mountain Road. There is a possibility of connecting it to a pond that's higher up. In the event of a major fire, the lower pond could be kept full by opening a connecting valve.
Knox Box Issue
Mr. Spaulding said he wants to continue working with Planning and Zoning to continue with the Knox Box program because “there have been a bunch of businesses in town that do not have them. We had to break into a building with the Police Chief a couple of weeks ago and (?) is going to have to foot the bill. The Knox Box costs $300 – the door, a lot more.” He said he had talked to the previous zoning administrator and it had “fallen on deaf ears”. Ms. Murphy suggested he speak to the new ZA.
Ms. Murphy asked if there is a program currently in place. Mr. Spaulding said no one can seem to find it.
Was there a policy or procedure in place? That's what no one can find. Ms. Murphy said she would look into it.
8) Items for Future Discussion (Handouts for Review and Discussion at Future Meetings)
i) Fire Commission Policy and Procedures (May 2004)
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy is looking for copies of Policies and Procedures that pre-date 2004.
ii) Dry Hydrant Inventory and Maintenance/Testing Schedule
Is there a dry hydrant inventory for the town and is there a maintenance schedule? Mr. Dauphin said this needs to be brought up to top priority. This was discussed with Mr. Morris during the hiatus of the Commission. There is grant money that the Town should be applying for, but Mr. Morris wanted to complete the inventory first. There was a map done that shows all of the hydrants so that the town can start looking at areas where water is lacking and so start filling in those areas.
Ms. Murphy said that in the past, applying for grants has gone back and forth. What Mr. Morris wants to do is look at the entire town, find any weak areas, and address them regardless of which side of town they are in. This is something Mr. Morris wants the Fire Commission to address. Mr. Dauphin said it needs to get done. It was agreed to work toward having a grant application ready for the August 1st deadline. (There are two types of grants available – new installations and upgrade/repairs.)
Mr. Dauphin said the inventory was to include a list of the hydrants that are going to need to be fixed. Mr. Spaulding said one (site) is supposed to be dredged every year.
Ms. Murphy said she would like to talk about tapping into the Connecticut River as part of this discussion, even if it involves a large sum of money. Ms. Nutile-McMenemy said the problem is the river belongs to the state of New Hampshire.
Ms. Spaulding said there is a viable water supply at Daniels (Route 5) that he has been asking about for the past five years. They have pumped 800 gallons a minute from a pipe in the ground that's just flowing into the river. The cost of developing it is $45,000 (for a hydrant and a tank). The stipulation is that Daniels has to do the installation. Mr. Spaulding said the $45,000 is a legitimate price. There is no cost estimate from another contractor to make any comparisons.
It is unclear who owns the pipe – Velco or Daniels.
It was adamantly agreed that this conversation needed to be continued. Ms. Murphy suggested getting a quote from another company and bringing Mr. Morris back into the discussion. If the estimate can be validated, then the town needs to talk to the state about pulling together the financing from the dry hydrant program. Since Springfield may be wanting to use it, perhaps mutual aid can be brought in to help support the idea. If nothing comes from these discussions, then the last resort would be to put an article on the ballot and appeal to the voters. The voters may be more open to the request if they know every effort has been made to find funding elsewhere.
There has also been discussion about tapping in to the wells at the bottom of (?) Lane.
iii) Fire Departments Joint Training Schedule, accounting of trained members
Accounting of trained members is almost completed.
Ms. Nutile-McMenemy asked the chiefs if they are training together. Mr. Spaulding said they are working together at fires. Mr. Dauphin said they haven't been doing the drills that they should be doing. There have been walk-throughs and viewing each others' equipment, but not physical drills.
Ms. Murphy asked the chiefs to consider doing a joint training at the school before it closes down for summer maintenance. It was stressed how critically important it is that both departments know the floor plan of the school completely.
9) Items for Next Meeting Agenda
10) Announcements (events)
5 Alarm 5 K Run and BBQ July 28 8 a.m.- done contact Na Toshya at WWFD
11) Time and location of next meeting (s)
July 9-Ascutney Fire Station, Aug. 13-West Weathersfield Fire Station, Sept. 10-Ascutney Fire Station, Oct. 8-West Weathersfield, Nov. 12 (Veterans Day), Dec. 10-TBD
Motion: To adjourn the meeting
Made by: Mr. Spaulding Second: Mr. Dauphin
Vote: Unanimous in favor
The meeting adjourned at 10:12 pm.
The meeting adjourned at .