Plympton selectmen interviewed two consulting firms for a study of the town’s fire department and emergency services at its meeting on Monday, August 21, 2017. The residents of Plympton voted $20,000 for this study at Annual Town Meeting back on May 18.
The first interview was with Travis Miller from the Carlson Group Inc., a national firm. Miller said he and his partner have been working together for 18 years. Alone, Miller has 25 years of consulting experience.
Miller described the Carlson group’s approach as one that values community input. He said, “We’re looking for service level questions in the community.”
As far as service level, Miller said he was referring primarily to the length of time it takes for the department to arrive at an emergency call.
Fire Chief Warren Borsari sat in on the interviews and acknowledged that this has become a challenge with the increased call volume. In 2013, Plympton upgraded its emergency services to advanced life support and since then, the town has taken part in assisting other communities with emergency services to increase revenue.
The call volume has gone up drastically since then. Borsari said the annual call number was at 299 when he first became the fire chief. Now, the number has more than doubled; there were 646 emergency calls in 2016.
Selectmen Clerk Mark Russo wanted to make sure the Carlson group was comfortable with Plympton’s fire department structure. He said the town uses full-time, part-time, and on-call employees for their emergency services. Miller said he’s comfortable with the structure and it’s not unique as he’s worked in other communities with similar structures.
Selectmen John Traynor asked the firm for a revised proposal since there seemed to be some confusion in the interview on what the goal of the study is. Traynor said the town needs guidance on what structure is best for the town’s emergency services, whether that be staying fully in house, regionalization, or privatization.
Miller did answer some of this, saying he believes there are a lot of benefits to having emergency services based in the fire department. “One of the biggest reasons is the revenue,” he said.
As far as time frame, Miller said if their firm were picked to expect a final report and presentation by early December. Miller said it’s possible it could be ready sooner.
Matrix Consulting Group
Selectmen and Chief Borsari interviewed Robert Finn from Matrix Consulting Firm Inc. Finn told the Board he flew in from Dallas, TX for this meeting. Matrix Consulting is a national firm with offices all throughout the country.
Finn said the firm likes to “start up with a flexible approach.” He added, “The first thing we do is interview and figure out what is “good” (for the town).”
Objective standards were brought up as well such as call response times and looking at what areas of a community could be deemed high risk. Finn brought up an oil tank in Texas being a high risk for a fire and wanted to identify any areas like that in Plympton.
Traynor told Finn the same thing he told the Carlson Group, that the town needs guidance and is exploring several options. He said, “We’re unsure which options make sense. We would need you for guidance.”
Finn said that the firm would have no problem exploring any of the options. He said, “My study will include anything you decide is important to you.”
Russo wanted to make sure the firm was used to smaller communities as well as cities. According to Finn, most of Matrix Consulting’s studies are done on towns with populations under 50,000.
As far as timeline goes, this firm has a longer time to finish than the Carlson Group. Matrix Consulting gave a 16-week timeline.
The firm’s price is also what the board deemed on the high side. Finn said there are no costs later if something doesn’t go exactly right unlike some other firms.
Community Paradigm is starting its preliminary screening for filling the town administrator position. Russo mentioned that the Board should start thinking about putting together the town’s screening committee for interviews soon.
Selectmen are working on clarifying an approach for departments to request time with town counsel in the case of emergencies. The protocol is always to seek permission from the Board of Selectmen first. The board is working toward allowing emergency permission for department heads when the board cannot be reached and the matter of the situation is time sensitive.
The next meeting of the Plympton Board of Selectmen is Monday, September 11, 2017, because of the Labor Day holiday. Open session starts at 6 p.m.