Select Board Endorses Adding 2 New Firefighter/EMTs On 4-1 Vote
by Connie Sartini
With strong support from four of the five members of the Select Board, they voted 4 to 1 (Becky Pine) to add two new Firefighter/EMTs to the FY2020 budget for the Groton Fire Department.
Select Board member Alison Manugian told her colleagues that there is a “lot to consider. This is a request we have heard for several years, with lots of information and interpreted data.” She said she focused on “the response time and the only way to reduce this was to add more staff.” She said that she was “concerned with the stress and strain every day for Firefighter/EMTs and felt that the town needs to provide appropriate staffing levels for the Department. “
She advised that she had spent time talking with the Fire Chief on the issues and “in conclusion, as an individual, I am moving in this direction.” She apologized saying, “I am sorry it took so long to get here,” and that she fully supported the hiring of two new fulltime Firefighter/EMTs.
Colleague John Giger stated, “I support it completely.” He pointed out that there was “no significant value to postponing it,” adding that lots of study has been done and gone in different directions. “There were more statistics than reality. The time has come to listen to the Chief. Get it done and get it done now.”
Selectman Josh Degen said he also “supported it completely,” and said his thinking was along the same lines as Giger’s. He added that looking at statistics is a reference point from the past, and noted that new projects like the Groton Inn and others are not factored in. Degen referred to the requested $86,000 for Prescott School and said he felt there were enough funds to pay for two new Firefighters. “I completely support this and the time to do this is now.”
Chairman Barry Pease added, “The town should indeed have more firefighters and I am happy to hear the support.”
Pine, told her colleagues that she was in a “different position here.” She said that she heard Finance Committee member Bud Robertson say that 80 percent of the town budget was for salaries. She added that she had not heard any complaints about the Fire Department. “The police are awake at night” and suggested that they could respond “so we don’t have to pay so much.” She also wanted to know that if the Firefighters are sleeping at the station, asking, “Who pays for the laundry and who pays for the food?”
Pine pointed to statistics she had that there were only 20 calls a year between the hours of midnight to six in the morning for Call Firefighters.. She noted, “If we add two people, that is 80 hours per week. I think we should hold off for another year.”
Her comment regarding the number of calls elicited a firm response from Lt. Tyler Shute advising her that those statistics needed to be checked. He stressed that the Call Department members are called out way more times than Pine’s comment indicated. “It’s ridiculous to think that they go out two times a year,” he said.
Resident Gail Chalmers thanked the Select Board members for “finally doing this.”
Ed. Note - Following the meeting Pine sent a letter of apology to the public and members of the Fire Department regarding the error in her comments at that meeting. A letter was also sent by Lt. Shute to the Select Board containing the correct data regarding the annual number of calls--318--for Call Firefighters during the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 132 between Midnight and 6 a.m. The letters are printed in the Letter to the Editor section of the paper.