The Plympton Board of Selectmen believes it has narrowed its search for a Fire/EMS consulting firm to two candidates, both which interviewed at the Selectmen meeting on Monday, August 28, 2017.
Selectmen spent their last two meetings interviewing candidates to study and make recommendations to improve emergency services. The funding for this study was approved last May at Annual Town Meeting.
Both Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) and Attorney Ernest Horn are considered the likely finalists after interviewing with Selectmen and Fire Chief Warren Borsari. Robert Loomer, Brian Duggan, and Robert Craig represented MRI in the consulting firm’s meeting with the Board and Fire Chief.
Fire Chief Borsari was impressed that Loomer, Duggan, and Craig are all retired fire chiefs. Borsari reiterated that this will help because the three of them truly understand the multitude of issues a fire department has to deal with.
Borsari said, “It’s nice to see three fire chiefs in the same room with me.”
Selectmen John Traynor asked MRI for guidance on how emergency services can be improved. He said the town is pondering all options including improving on the existing in-house advanced life support services, regionalization, shared services, and privatization. However, Traynor did say that privatization seems to be a very expensive option.
Citing past experience with towns similar in size to Plympton, MRI cautioned Selectmen about common issues with privatizing emergency services. According to MRI, the biggest issue with privatization isn’t cost, but rather the lack of control over the level of service.
Duggan said, “In years one and two it’s often cost effective.” However, he said without the revenue from having your own service, it can become “cost prohibitive” in smaller communities over the long run.
MRI spoke positively about the benefits of shared services. They said that unlike regionalized services, there’s more control with a shared service contract with another town. The consulting firm said they’ve completed 15 regionalization studies. In the end, only two of those communities ended up implementing regionalized services.
The firm said that it would also be more than willing to talk to other towns about a shared service. This includes asking towns what their concerns might be and giving a broad structure of what an agreement might look like. However, MRI’s services do not include negotiating a contract with another town.
In total, MRI said they can complete the study with a four to six month turnaround.
Attorney Ernest Horn
Attorney Ernest Horn also interviewed for the Fire/EMS study and is considered a finalist for the position. Horn has 31 years of experience working in public safety.
This experience includes time as a fire chief and also as a police chief. Horn also teaches criminal justice classes as an adjunct professor at Becker College in Worcester, Mass.
Horn described his approach as a thorough one. He said, “The preferable way to do it (studies) is from top to bottom.”
According to Horn, every employee at the fire department will be interviewed, and all equipment and records will be examined thoroughly. He said he even has a certified mechanic who will inspect every vehicle the fire department has.
Besides the mechanic, Horn said he has a team he’s selected to help with his department examination. Horn said, “I have a team of retired and current public officials with over 100 combined years of experience.”
The Board of Selectmen asked Horn about his opinions on privatization, in-house, and all the other types of service options the town could explore. Like MRI, Horn was not optimistic about privatized emergency services. Horn preferred a shared service rather than a regionalized service as well.
Horn said, “The problem with regionalization is you add another authority.” Instead, he spoke about a potential employee-sharing contract with another town since it helps with the problem of hiring and keeping employees while also sharing costs such as putting trainees through the fire academy.
Horn said it’s important the town does not become the subservient in this type of arrangement. He said Plympton would have to be on equal footing with a shared contract.
Selectmen Chair Christine Joy asked Horn if he’d be willing to negotiate with another town on Plympton’s behalf. Horn said he would be willing to do this. As a licensed attorney, Horn considers this legal advice that’s included in his $18,000 service cost.
Horn said his usual turn around for a study is 30-45 days with a report presented in 60 days. He said that he can however accommodate earlier if needed.
Selectmen plan to choose a consulting firm sometime in the middle of September.
Robert Law resigned his position as Plympton Fire Captain. The Board of Selectmen regretfully accepted his resignation and thanked him for his service.
Selectmen will be completing a survey from the Old Colony Planning Council. According to Joy, the town is in the running for a rural community grant. If awarded, the grant will be used for road upgrades on parts of Route 106.
The next Board of Selectmen’s meeting is Monday, September 11. Open session starts at 6 p.m.