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Select Board & FinCom Waffle On Adding Firefighter/EMTs

by Connie Sartini

 

   Following many months of discussion, a 4-1 vote from the Fire Department Task Force, the support of four of the five Select Board members, and a strong show of citizen support at the only public outreach forum to discuss the matter, the addition of two, new, full-time Firefighter/EMTs is still being debated by members of the Finance Committee and the Select Board.

   The saga continues on Monday March 18 at 7 p.m. when the Select Board and Finance Committee meet again to continue the dialogue as the deadlines for this decision nears.

   Select Board member John Giger said he wanted to “let the voters decide. I have listened to the arguments for 18 months. It’s been study, study, study. Let’s put it to the voters to decide.” He said it’s not as simple as cardio or breathing issues, but also the need for good equipment and 

experienced, trained personnel.

   “I feel like we are kicking the can down the road and not addressing it.” He urged the Board to “go to the voters and let them decide.”

   Acting Chairman Alison Manugian said she agreed with Giger “in some part” on the municipal side but said she saw “other priorities down the line and is concerned with override fatigue. The one person we have not heard from in any formal way is the Chief.”

   Colleague Becky Pine said that it “appears that we need an override next year that doesn’t include the firefighters. That override is seen as more for schools” and cautioned not to exacerbate a split. She added, “We should use an override when we are all in agreement.” She said she was not in favor of hiring the two Firefighter/EM’s in this budget. 

   Giger said he felt that members of the Board and FinCom would still be arguing. “We’ve got data on the table but not one solution. Let’s put it to the voters. Let them decide and move on.” He added, “We are still kicking the can down the road. The voters aren’t stupid. Listening to us argue is not bringing any clarity at all.”

   Finance Committee member Bud Robertson said he felt that, “the timing of the money is not right. I don’t like funding through E&D (free cash).”

   Finance Committee member Art Prest gave the members of the Select Board and Finance Committee a 50-page packet containing analysis and background on the data in support of the two, additional Firefighter /EMTs.

   Following the meeting, Prest stated that the cost to add $64,000 to the budget for the two firefighters/EMTs would add $15.21 to the average tax bill in a home valued at $425,000 and if the two firefighters took benefits, it would cost $24.14 on the same average tax bill. 

   Resident Jack Petropoulos volunteered to the Board that he and Kevin Lindemer could “help get the information straight.”

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