Tension between fire departments burbles up in Cavendish Select Board meeting

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The monthly Cavendish Select Board meeting was just a few minutes old on Monday when it almost erupted into an all-out range war over issues between the town’s two fire companies.

Amy Perry reading her statement. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

In the public comment portion of the agenda, Amy Perry of the Proctorsville Fire Department asked that newly elected Select Board member Stu Lindberg, who works for the Cavendish Fire Department, be removed and replaced to have “a fair and impartial board with no hidden personal agendas.”

Tensions between the two departments have been an issue for years. Last year the Cavendish Department  considered closing for lack of firefighters, but more recently has been actively recruiting new members.

Lindberg listens to Perry’s comment

Perry said that Lindberg was “incapable of separating his personal and professional agenda as a firefighter and prudential board member with District 2 from his position as a select board member,” and cited some situations in which she said his conduct reflected badly on the town.

In responding, Lindberg began recounting – as context – the problems between the fire companies but he was stopped by Town Manager Brendan McNamara, who said, “If you want to rebut Amy’s remarks, you have the right. What we are not going to do is get into a debate about the two fire departments.” McNamara noted that those problems were beyond the scope of the meeting.

“Then I’ll let my reputation in this town stand for itself,” said Lindberg.

Demolition of derelict building

53 Depot St. Proctorsville

In past meetings, members of the public have complained about the condition of 53 Depot St. in Proctorsville. Neighbors have reported vermin and there have been fires in the building. McNamara told the board he had contacted building owner Rose Kauppinen and explained the town’s Dangerous and/or Derelict Buildings Ordinance to her.

Kauppinen told McNamara that family members will come in June to remove the contents and that demolition of the building would be complete by the end of summer.  McNamara said he would be sending her a letter outlining the steps in the process along with the due dates.

Hiking trails insurance

According to Planning Commission members Tim Calabrese and Wendy Regier, Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation has approved a hiking trail in the Proctor Piper State Forest. The trail has the potential to link the villages of Proctorsville and Cavendish for foot traffic without using Rt. 131. One condition however is that the town provide $1 million liability coverage for the trail.

Both board and audience members were enthusiastic about the idea, hoping it could also be open to bikes, but the state mandates that it can only be used by hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers. Regier gave kudos to Calabrese and John Saydek for their work on the project.

McNamara asked the board to allow him to research the cost of the insurance with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which provides property and casualty coverage to municipalities throughout the state. The board agreed.

EV charging station grant

Recently the town submitted a grant to the state for an electric vehicle charging station for the Proctorsville Green, but the grant was not funded. McNamara said the town would like to try again in Round 2 and asked the board for a resolution to do so.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara explains the EV charger project

“It was going to be between Murdock’s and the Outer Limits Brewery,” said McNamara. “But we’re trying for one of the last parking spaces on the Depot Street side of the Green. There’s three phase power there – which is required – and a streetlight, which will make things easier.”

McNamara called a charging station a nice asset for the Green and noted that the 10 percent match for the $20,000 to $30,000 project could come from the value of town labor doing the work.

Asked who would pay for the electricity, McNamara said the town would run it for the first year free after which it could decide whether to install the equipment to charge by credit card. The board approved the resolution.

Town-wide reappraisal and town projects

McNamara told the board that the town-wide reappraisal is nearly finished. By the end of April everyone should receive a booklet by mail that will outline the new values of all the properties in town for taxation. There will be a “pre-grievance” period of May 8, 9 and 10 with grievance hearings on May 15, 16 and 17.

With the weather about to break, McNamara told the board that the final construction work on the aeration system at the wastewater facility will begin – as soon as the ice melts. He said the work on the Depot Street bridge is finally under way with cranes and excavators in place and demolition a few days away. McNamara hopes to have a grand opening for the new span in early fall.

Speaking of celebrations, McNamara said that the open house at the new highway garage was well attended and crew members are happy in their new home. He thanked Randy Shimp who acted as “clerk of the works” for saving the town “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Until the weather breaks, the road crews are working extra time to handle mud season. Unfortunately there’s an equipment problem. “Mud season isn’t a great time to have your grader down,” said McNamara, adding that it should be back in a day or two. In the meantime, he encouraged residents to report any high-priority road concerns to the town.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    The Telegraph is not wrong in its statement that the Cavendish Fire Department is “actively recruiting new members,” a statement that you back up in your comment.

    The article does not address whether those efforts are successful.

  2. Jessica Rose says:

    Someone really needs to do an article that really shows what’s going on here. As a resident of Cavendish it’s scary to know that for years I have had to rely on a fire department in emergencies that cannot make there calls. I personally have had several emergencies at my home that were not responded to by a single person on Cavendish Fire Department. My opinion has absolutely nothing to do with being a member on Proctorsville Fire Department.

    There’s a lot to say about this situation but one error in this article is that they have been recruiting new members. This is false. They are trying but because it’s a s***show there, they are not getting new members in fact they have almost no one left. Most have joined our fire department and I think that alone should say something about the issues at hand. And no one was coaxed or asked to switch departments this was choices they made on there own then came to our department with there decision.

    The point to fire departments is to help people and no matter what the reason is why they cant accomplish this task there should be people figuring out how to resolve that issue. Everyone who lives in Cavendish just think about the fact that your house could burn down or your loved ones die because your fire department cant show up. Its time to make a change for safety reasons.

  3. Hi Amy,
    We try not print accusations like the ones you made on Monday night without checking them out. We have an obligation to print what is verifiable. That takes time and since the first person I checked with Tuesday morning disagreed with your characterization of one of the events, I wrote the story around it and will continue to look into your charges. The situation in Cavendish is fraught and all other considerations (like libel) aside, we would rather not make it worse by printing something that is incorrect.

  4. Amy Perry says:

    It is unfortunate that all that seems to have been gotten out of a 5+ minute speech is that ‘the fire departments are fighting again.’ That is not what this was about. This was about what is, and is not, acceptable behavior from an elected official, a selectboard member. It only involved the fire departments as far as Mr. Lindberg made it about the departments. I did not enjoy making that speech, but I would again, as I will not ignore or enable such behavior from someone who represents this town in an official capacity. Anyone, not just Mr. Lindberg. I am happy to provide a copy of my speech to anyone who would like the real information. Mr. Lindberg got shut down because he tried to rebut with FD issues. If I had tried to comment on FD issues, I, too, would have been told this was not acceptable. But I stuck to verifiable and unexaggerated facts, real events. Put simply, harassing people who have resigned, attacking visiting fire Chiefs with outbursts in the middle of a training, and slandering to the point of swearing to someone of authority you don’t even know at an official state event to the point they have to walk away from you and report it to the organizers, that’s just not ok. THAT is what my comment was about. Nothing more.