In today’s edition of the Hudson Litchfield News; there was this “Letter to the Editor“, written by Joseph Cabral.
I want to address several statements within this letter; that I feel are misleading and lack details:
Unneccassary fire station and fire department spending (OT, detail truck, bonus, Taj Mahal, etc)
First, the “Unnecessary fire station“, the current fire station is and has been for over 20 years inadequate to house the needed equipment and staff to provide fire protection to this community. The building had many safety and space issues; which could not be addressed in its current footprint. The location was also creating longer response times to many areas of our town. All these issues were documented and presented by the Fire Chief Thomas Schofield, who held the position in 2008.
Ten 10 years later, we have the same building and same issues outline in that 2008 presentation to the voters.
Moving forward to 2018, the proposed fire station was brought to the voters; and during the public hearing, voters shared their concerns around the original cost estimates. The Board of Selectmen, fire department leadership, Town Administrator and a resident regrouped; discussed the priorities and ways to reduce the original $5 Million estimate. After much hard work, it was reduced to $3.7 Million; and the warrant was modified and it went to the voters. Which it received the needed support. You can also learn more about current fire station issues; and the new station at http://litchfieldfirestation.com.
Now for the “fire department spending (OT, detail truck, bonus, Taj Mahal, etc)“; I am not sure exactly what he’s referencing. But during a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting; Joseph Cabral made a comment about paying our Full-Time firefighters training overtime wages.
First, the department has a training program, that all firefighters are required to participate. Because we are mainly a call department; meaning most of our firefighters have full-time careers and work during the day, training must be conducted in the evening and weekends. So this means that two (2) of our department members must participate after they have worked their normal shift or on weekends. Which results in them being paid overtime; which is budgeted every year; has been supported by the Budget Committee and voters. I am sure he’s not saying that we should not train our staff; and if we can’t pay them overtime to attend, how does he suggests we ensure they are prepared for the next emergency? In a town of our size, training is critical to ensure that “ALL” of our staff are ready and can respond. Does anyone disagree? If you do, please come to the next Board of Selectmen and voice your opinion.
Next, “The amount of taxpayers’ dollars being wasted using Municipal Resources, Inc. (fees, unneccesary studies)“
I am not sure where to actually start, but recently; the Board of Selectmen were accused of not doing the proper research, so leveraging experts is common practice. MRI is an entity that is used throughout the New England area for this purpose and highly recommended by other towns. The members of the Board of Selectmen come from all walks of life; but many of us are not experts in areas of Inspection Services, Department of Public Works and/or Public Safety (PD/Fire). Over the years we have enlisted MRI to assist in helping us understand the functions, organizational structures and building a strategy for the future. These reports provide the Board of Selectmen and Department Head(s) the insights from industry experts and a roadmap for improving services and safety. Is this not what we should be doing to ensure that we are servicing the community appropriately and efficiently.
This one, “Because I don’t agree with the bullying of our town employees“; neither do we, no matter if you are a citizen, employee, department head or election official. Its unacceptable!!!!
It’s the responsibility of the Board to manage our departments, the employees and the contracted services that are utilized throughout the town; so I don’t get this one “The handling of plow contracts“. It has been said that we should not have even gotten involved, but that would be poor management. Did it solve anything or cause more issues, that is still yet to be seen. Yes, we had some issues with SNOW OPERATIONS during the last few storms, but it continues to improve. That’s because the highway department has been working every day to address the issues. The Road Agent and his crew have and continue to improve the readiness of our SNOW OPERATIONS. Every year we have hiccups in the program, as new drivers get familiar with their routes and issues that arise because of an aging fleet. Something that a town of our size and its resources deal with every year. It should also be noted, so there is no mistake; our Road Agent, Jack Pinciaro has always worked hard for this community. He took over a department that was unable to accomplish a single project, and he has completed 20 years of project work in his past 10 years of service. I fully expect him to continue that track record and with the support of the Board; current and future.
Then there’s “Lack of transparency“
I have personally, with the Board’s support; worked to get as much information online. This includes broadcasting meetings via YouTube and having those meetings available for post-watching at any time. We link those meetings to the town’s website (which is undergoing a redesign), along with the meeting minutes and cross-post to social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Have we miss some postings, of course; we are human but we are working to improve that, with some streamlining of the posting process. We have public meetings every week; where public participation is low, but that’s understandable; we are all busy. This is why we have made so much effort to get all public meetings available online; to provide options beyond coming to a live session.
As a member of the Board of Selectmen; I have worked to consider all sides and to make the best decisions to better the community. I want to hear from anyone who’s willing to reach out and share their ideas and concerns. If there’s something you don’t understand; and the matter is not subject to the rules of RSA 91a, please come to a meeting or reach out to me directly.