Plympton Fire Chief Stephen Silva, who is nearing his one-year anniversary, gave an update on the state of the department during the Monday, Sept. 23, Board of Selectmen meeting.
Chief Silva gave a rundown of the various grants that had been awarded or are soon to be awarded to the department during his nearly yearlong tenure including $16,000 for a needed piece of medical equipment, $25,000 from the Gary Sinise Foundation for specialized protective gear, and $17,000 from FEMA used toward a gear washer and dryer. Additionally, thanks to the efforts of town administrator Elizabeth Dennehy in securing a green grant, new appliances will be purchased for the fire department. In total, $83,000 of grant money will have been procured by the end of the year. An additional $10,000 has been raised through fundraising efforts.
A lack of record keeping had plagued the department prior to Chief Silva’s arrival. Despite some vehicles being ten years old, there were no records of them having been formally assessed. In the last ten months, $15,000 worth of repairs have been performed on department vehicles to correct problems with pumps, transmissions, brakes, and many other issues. Captain Paul Lamoureux, who is currently a captain with the Bridgewater fire department, has been brought on to oversee the now formalized maintenance program. “Let’s just say he knows trucks,” Silva said of Lamoreaux. While acknowledging that there are no guarantees, Silva said, “Unanticipated major failures should be a thing of the past.”
The department now has a trained, nationally recognized fire prevention officer. Additionally, firefighter Keith Pontes, who is a facilities manager at the power plant on the Canal as well as a Mass Maritime graduate, has taken the lead on the department’s rehabilitation project.
Silva also stressed the importance of communicating with Plympton residents through social media. Regarding the department’s Facebook page, Silva said, “It’s an incredibly good communication tool; the citizens and businesses of Plympton are our customers and it’s our responsibility to let them know what we are doing with their money.” For those wishing to visit the station, an open house will be held on October 26 from 10-2.
Selectmen John Traynor asked the Chief about strides made within the department with respect to recruitment and retention. Silva explained that the lack of applicants for civil service positions such as firefighters and paramedics is widespread and is even affecting larger communities. Silva, who serves as a liaison between Plymouth County fire chiefs and Plymouth County police chiefs said that it is an ongoing concern and conversation. Silva referred to the shortage of paramedics as “if not a crisis, close to it.” Despite these conditions, however, Silva said, “We are retaining more and we are starting to get more people in.” Silva explained that with the blessing of some other local fire departments, some veteran firefighters that had previously left the Plympton Fire Department to work in other communities, have actually returned either per diem or part time.
Selectmen Chair Christine Joy asked Silva what could be done to entice more residents to take an interest in the Fire Department. Silva said, “It’s all about getting out in the community and letting the community know there is a spot for everybody. If you don’t want to be a structural firefighter or an EMT or if you do, that’s fine, there is always a place.” In addition to open houses, the department will also be offering CPR courses monthly beginning around the first of the year for those wishing to become CPR certified. There are also plans to resurrect the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the coming year. The Selectmen thanked Silva for his work and Vice Chair Mark Russo summarized their feelings saying, “You’ve done a wonderful job righting the ship.”
Several appointments were made during Monday’s meeting including Jennifer Macdonald and Gail Knight both to the Cultural Council through June 30, 2020. The Selectmen also appointed Jay Cohen to the Planning Board through June 30, 2020. After being selected through an interview process, Brian Vasa was also appointed as the town’s first Conservation Agent through June 30, 2020. “Thank you all for agreeing to come and serve on these important boards and committees,” Joy said. Traynor commended the town for their volunteer outreach saying that of 130 elected or appointed positions within Plympton, all but four are currently filled. “I think that’s a testament to the volunteer spirit of the town,” Traynor said.
Killing frost needed
Correspondence from the Board of Health was read during the meeting which cited the continued warm weather as the reason for the recent additional aerial spraying as well as emphasizing that it is the “killing frost” rather than the “first frost” that will eliminate the threat posed by mosquitos. While the first frost occurs once temperatures hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the killing frost doesn’t occur until temperatures hit 28 degrees Fahrenheit for three consecutive hours.