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Does Bernardston need a fire chief's vehicle?

  • Firefighting gear hangs in the Bernardston Fire Department, located at 18 Church St. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE



Recorder Staff
Friday, June 09, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Faced with complications surrounding turning the Fire Department’s current squad truck into a chief’s vehicle for Peter Shedd, the Selectboard began to question whether a chief’s vehicle is necessary.

Though the plan was originally to get rid of Shedd’s Ford Explorer, repurpose the current squad truck and purchase a new one, the Selectboard agreed during a Tuesday meeting that passing the squad truck down would violate protocols the town is supposed to follow as a Green Community under the Department of Energy Resources.

Specifically, Green Communities’ protocol states that “moving a previously purchased and used vehicle from one municipal department to another … is only allowed if the vehicle being recycled to the new department meets the fuel efficient criteria” outlined by the program. The current squad truck, the board agreed, would not meet fuel efficient standards.

Selectmen Brian Keir and Robert Raymond said if the squad truck was passed down, the town would risk having to return any unspent portion of its current Green Communities money and risk losing future grants. Thus, the board unanimously voted that the squad truck will not become the chief’s vehicle.

During annual town meeting, voters approved the purchase of a $42,000 squad truck, though Shedd said that after further research, the truck he had hoped to buy won’t fit in the station. He plans to look at other models, and bring a new recommendation before the Selectboard at a future meeting.

However, the discussion of the Fire Department’s vehicles led the board to ask: at what point does a town need a fire chief’s vehicle?

“I feel the chief should have a vehicle,” Selectboard Chairman Stanley Garland said. “I don’t feel anybody in a command position like the chief should have to use a personal vehicle to respond to emergencies.”

Without a chief’s vehicle, Garland said, Shedd, who is also emergency management director, might have to travel back to the station before responding, depending on the situation.

“In emergencies, seconds make a difference,” Garland said.

Keir and Raymond hoped to see justification from Shedd, with Keir noting that other firefighters take their own vehicles to respond to calls. Perhaps, Raymond proposed, instead of getting another chief’s vehicle, Bernardston could pay Shedd a stipend or mileage to use his own vehicle.

The board asked Shedd to return to a future meeting with further justification for having a chief’s vehicle, as well as data showing how common chief’s vehicles are in Franklin County.

In North County, Leyden Fire Chief Clifford Spatcher, Northfield Fire Chief Floyd “Skip” Dunnell III and Warwick Fire Chief Ron Gates all told The Recorder they do not have chief’s vehicles.