Plympton selectmen heard Monday night from their fire consultant Lance Benjamino, Chief of the Middleboro Fire Dept., who is working with Plympton to bring the Plympton Fire Dept. up to state mandated standards for training, reporting, housing, equipment, and the fire station building itself.
Benjamino noted many issues, beginning with the fire station, noting first that there is no alarm system at the fire station. The kitchen is in disrepair, new appliances are needed. The equipment floor needs to be resurfaced, the cement apron in front of the equipment bays needs repair or replacement.
Benjamino enumerated dozens of items that need to be addressed to bring the building up to the code when it was built in 1974, as well as a cost to the town to get them done, totaling $61,500. He told the board that he didn’t include labor in many of these items and will be working with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Dept. for labor for several of the projects.
He then went on to say there is too much equipment, as was stated in the MRI report, so that the fire station can’t house it all, nor is it used.
In addition to returning the Red Cross trailer to the Red Cross, and returning the Water Buffalo, Engine 3 is out for repair. Benjamino suggested surplussing Engine 3, which is seldom used and has only 11,000 miles on it, and told selectmen that as it stands a company which brokers fire trucks will give the town $60,000 cash for the Engine 3. Those funds could be used to offset the costs of the station’s repairs.
Benjamino also recommended that the town look into adding another bay to the left side (Library side) of the fire station and make it a two-story structure, so that offices and bunk rooms can be housed on the second floor, and the trailer in the parking lot can be sold or returned from whence it came.
He did strongly recommend that selectmen contact a structural engineer to confirm that the building is in good enough condition to allow a two-story addition. He said he thought it was, but would need it confirmed by a professional.
Benjamino said that there are three generator trailers that have never been fully utilized.
“Where are we now?” Benjamino asked. As for the fire department personnel, each member had to re-apply for his/her position and pass a CORI and SORI background check. “Those who passed remain on staff. Those who didn’t aren’t,” he told the board.
“We have created a mission statement, a Plympton Fire Department Social Media policy. We’ve also addressed sexual harassment issues.” he said.
In all Benjamino reported that he expects the department to run by established standards with personnel protection, accountability, and leadership.
He detailed firefighter F1-2 training, and said that each member of the department needed to be trained. If there is training money to be had, it costs $600 each for Plympton’s 11 firefighters who need the training. If shared services with Halifax will help with the expense, that makes sense. Otherwise, he said, the town will have to look for other funding sources or simply pay for it.
Benjamino said that the training is absolutely necessary for the safety of the team.
“If they get into trouble, they need to know what to do.” They also need to know how to communicate with one another. He noted that the radio frequency in use had expired in 2015. A new frequency is being installed and needs to be programmed into the radios and mutual aid towns.
He is also developing pre-fire plans for businesses in town. “Not inspections,” but plans so that when a call comes in, a firefighter can grab the binder with that building’s fire plan and gain valuable information about what they might be heading into.
Benjamino said these inspections and plans should be updated every six months or at least yearly.
He said he has a 25-page book of rules and regulations, operating procedures. We need them to know how to operate.
As to whether or not a combined fire department with Halifax or another town was a viable course, Benjamino told Selectman Mark Russo that he thought Plympton can indeed have a stand alone fire department. Can it benefit from some shared services? Yes. “There’s a price for everything,” he noted.
The planned joint meeting with Halifax selectmen June 20 has been pushed out past July, and Selectman Christine Joy said that if Halifax comes back to us with a proposal in the next two weeks, we will evaluate it.
Selectman Chairman John Traynor told the board that he would like to work toward a stand-alone department.
To find a qualified fire chief, Benjamino said that the Plymouth County Fire Chief’s Association can help. Plympton would bring the resumes and applications to the Chiefs and they will evaluate and make recommendations.
Selectmen were all delighted with the findings, and the recommendations that Chief Benjamino proposed. While pointing out problems he also showed solutions, giving selectmen hope.
Traynor asked if the town should do an operational review, either annually or semiannually. Bertino answered that yes, it needs to be done, and also suggested to ask the neighboring towns what they think of your department. “They’ll tell you!”
Amy Cronin, a member of the audience, suggested that the operational reviews be done by a third party, to be sure that it is unbiased and accurate..
In other business selectmen:
• will begin interviewing the two candidates for highway superintendent next week.
• declared July 16 to be the date for the public hearing on the Atwood property,
• received a letter from Plympton Fire Dept. member Gary Somero indicating he would like to be considered for the position of Plympton Fire Chief.
• received a letter from Arthur Morin stating he did not want to be considered for re-appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals.