Chester Select Board discusses water rescue gear, approves historical marker



The Stearns Rapid Rescue Dry Suit.

The Stearns Rapid Rescue Dry Suit.

By Shawn Cunningham

Water rescue, historical markers and potholes were among the items discussed at last Wednesday’s Chester Select Board meeting.

Fire Chief Matt Wilson came before the Select Board to request permission to apply for a grant to cover a portion of the cost of equipment needed to train for water rescues including both cold-water and swift-water situations.

According to Wilson, these type of rescue has been handled by mutual aid, but in the flooding that resulted from Tropical Storm Irene, mutual aid couldn’t get through. Wilson explained that time is of the essence in both cold- and swift-water rescues, adding that “seconds count,” whether you are making a rescue or a recovery. But to perform water rescues safely, the firefighters need specialized suits and other gear.

The department trained for cold/ice water rescues in March and will learn swift-water techniques this September. “The goal is to have the suits before September,” said Wilson.

Chief Wilson said that the total budget for outfitting the department with suits and the equipment to effect rescues would be about $22,000. Because the swift-water suits are cut to fit so they keep water out, every member who trains needs a suit. Suits that can be used by more than one person are available, but cost about three times as much.

Select Board member Tom Bock said that he liked bringing the department to a higher level, but questioned whether it would increase the town’s liability. Board member Derek Suursoo wondered if this would mean a bump in the cost of the town’s insurance coverage, asking, “What’s the big picture?”

As Wilson described the use of the equipment and the need for as many rescuers on shore as in the water, board members questioned whether suits were needed for those on shore. Wilson noted that almost everyone would be trained for both roles and that if someone in the shore crew fell in or things went wrong and needed to go into the water, the suits would be necessary. “They’re not going to stand there and let somebody float away,” said Wilson. “They’re going to jump in.”

Board member Bill Lindsay asked if they couldn’t go down the middle of the road by buying eight suits. Wilson replied that with a volunteer force, you don’t know who will be able to turn out for any given emergency. Since the suits are fitted to the person, that would lower the pool of people who could help.

Suursoo noted that outfitting the Fire Department would mean getting mutual aid calls from towns that decided not to do this. “I don’t want to become the town that people come to because we have the capability,” said Suursoo.

Wilson sees the water training as a recruiting and retention tool that adds interest and stimulation to the experience of volunteer firefighters who train on the same topics over and over. The engine company has taken on the mission of raising the difference between the cost of the gear and the monies from the grant and the allocation for equipment in the town budget. The Baptist Church has already offered nearly $1,000 to outfit one firefighter.

The grant from PACIF (Vermont’s municipal insurance fund) requires a 50 percent match from the town and according to Julie Hance, assistant to the town manage, the match for a $5,000 PACIF grant has been set aside. Aside from $1,300 for a gas meter requested by the Sewer Department, the rest of the grant would go toward the water rescue gear. With $8,700 from PACIF and $7,000 allocated in this year’s budget, the department would have to raise $6,300. The grant is due on April 30 and the fire chief will return with details requested by the board for its April 16 meeting.

Old business list

The board again revisited the format of its old business list with an eye toward streamlining it further. “I’ve got a bunch of ideas about old business,” said Suursoo. “But I’m not sure anybody wants to hear it.” He then went on to advocate for limiting the number of things on the list and dropping items that are not moving forward. Pointing out the number of assignments the board gives town manager David Pisha, Suursoo said “We’re very good at saying let’s do this or that, but there’s one man down there with limited time.”

Throughout the discussion Suursoo expressed impatience with carrying items that don’t seem to be moving forward such as the Emergency Services building, pursuing Andover for capital contributions for police and fire equipment and purchase of a roller to compact dirt roads. He did however suggest that individual members might work old business initiatives – like the Andover capital contribution – on their own.

Lindsay responded to Suursoo’s suggestion noting that a five-member board should act as a board.“Individual select board members running off carrying their own little projects would not be appropriate,” said Lindsay.

Which history to mark

Pisha noted that state Rep. Leigh Dakin had been in touch with Hance about nominating a place to get a historical marker that is paid for by the legislature. Historical Society president Ron Patch suggested several including the train station, the Academy building (the earlier one – not the existing structure, the site of the former Gould’s market where Daniel Webster made a speech from the balcony of an early hotel, the Henry Office building where President McKinley stayed during a visit to Chester, the Pollard House (next to the library) where Teddy Roosevelt stayed during his visit and the Yosemite Fire House on Route 103 north of the Depot.

Only one marker is allotted, so the board discussed the merits of the sites as well as the feasibility of putting markers in front of private properties. After an impressive discourse on the importance of Daniel Webster by Tom Bock, the board voted to apply for a plaque to be placed in front of the Academy building.

In public comment, Cindy Collins presented the board with a map of the potholes and sunken storm drains in the Mountain View community. She asked that the town add fixing these to its list of repairs as soon as it’s feasible.

Other business

  • In new business, members of the board requested that new water rates be revisited, that they continue the discussion of the fire department’s grant request and that the board hear from Bob Flint of the Springfield Regional Development Corp. regarding SRDC’s work with Chester businesses.
  • The board entered an executive session at the end of the regular meeting. The session was to discuss legal issues including the Dollar General controversy. During the old business portion of the meeting, board chair John DeBenedetti noted that from January 2012 to March 2014, the town has spent $9303.31 on legal fees associated with Dollar General.

Watch this

In cooperation with SAPA-TV, The Chester Telegraph is making DVD copies of the Chester Select Board’s meetings available at the Whiting Library, 117 Main St. in Chester. DVDs can be viewed on computers at the library (subject to time limits on use) or borrowed for home viewing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: FeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.