Selectmen, Fire Chief work toward new fire station

By Tanner Harding | Apr 03, 2018

Mattapoisett — The need for a new fire station has been part of town dialogue for years now, and on Tuesday night Fire Chief Andy Murray appeared in front of the Board of Selectmen with the department’s current list of violations, as well as with ideas to save money on the building process.

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) handed down a new list of regulations for fire departments that must be in place by Feb. 1, 2019. Murray said that when they start enforcing the $1,000 fines for each violation, the department will owe $9,000.

“Then if there’s no progress being made or you haven’t come up with a plan to rectify the issues, they’ll seek a criminal complaint,” he said.

As it stands today, the department would be in violation of nine different categories: facility safety, fitness for duty medical exams, personal protective equipment, rehabilitation at fire scenes, respirator program, specialized rescue, traffic incident management, cancer and preventing common injuries.

Some of the main concerns Murray mentioned were electrical wiring issues, non-compliant stairways and railings, lack of shower and the fact there’s no exhaust system to control diesel exhaust in the station from the trucks. Additionally, without showers, firefighters can’t wash the contamination of themselves from scenes until they get home, meaning it’s on them longer and then they bring that contamination home as well.

“The average person has a 22 percent chance of getting cancer,” Murray said. “If you’re a firefighter, you have a 68 percent chance. With these issues not being addressed, it’ll only be worse.”

He also noted that the lack of the basic conveniences made it hard to attract new firefighters.

“It’s hard to have an on-call fire department when we can’t take care of the staff we have right now,” Murray said.

Selectman Jordan Collyer, also a call firefighter for the department, agreed with Murray, and said something needed to be done sooner rather than later.

“I make no secret as a member of the fire department that I think it’s an atrocious building that we expect people to show up and work in,” he said. “We’re missing fundamental things. We need to make a decision and we need to make a decision fast. We’re making it impossible to attract talent.”

In terms of financing a new building, Murray had a couple ideas. He suggested constructing a building with the footprint they would need to suit the next 25 years or so, but only finish off the necessities.

“Then we could finish off the building as a second phase,” he said.

Murray also talked to some of the vocational high schools in the area, as well as Plymouth County House of Corrections to perform some of the work. He said officials at the jail were particularly excited about the opportunity.

“They have individuals who came from the trade in the transition program,” Murray said. “They’re not dangerous inmates. They’re people with substance issues or other nonviolent problems in the past. They can paint, landscape, install cabinets, install carpentry, install suspended ceilings. They can do it all, top to bottom.”

The jail would send six people a day to do the work, and the cost of labor would be nothing, aside from lunch every day.

“We could potentially just put aside an amount for supplies only, and work with them to get completed,” Murray said. “There’s a lot of potential there to save a decent amount of money.”

The selectmen decided that they would ask voters to approve $260,000 at Town Meeting in order to pay for design engineering and a cost analysis for the development of plans for the station.

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