The volunteer Fire Department has been taking on increased responsibilities for inspections and trainings. Many similar-sized departments have shifted to full-time paid chiefs and other staff to accommodate these needs and ensure one or more firefighters are available.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Adams Fire Department will ask Fire District members to vote to accept a budget that will accommodate a full-time paid chief and a full-time firefighter.
Fire Chief John Pansecchi released a letter on Facebook last week stating that with increased responsibilities for both the town and volunteer fire company, the department needs to make some changes.
"We are the fourth largest in the state and we are the largest in Berkshire County that has not gone this route," he said on Wednesday. "It is getting to the point where it is just impossible to keep up ... the job keeps getting bigger and bigger."
It has been a concern of the past three fire chiefs, he said, noting that many like-sized and smaller departments full-time fire chiefs and often other staff. For instance, both Williamstown and Dalton have some full-time staff.
Pansecchi said departments across the country are facing new challenges and they no longer just have to fight fires but conduct inspections to meet the needs of the ever-changing fire codes. He said he currently does most of these inspections on both residential and commercial structures including boiler inspections, smoke detector inspections for residential sales, and oil tank removal inspections.
He said many of these are done with the building inspector.
Most recently, the state has asked that the Fire Department inspect places where welding or torchwork will take place. This applies to contractors who may be coming into town for a project.
"You can't keep asking us every year for more and more and the state keeps coming out with more and more codes," Pansecchi, a 30-year veteran of the department, said. "This last year, anyone that is welding or any kind of torchwork has to have a permit from us so all of the garages in town, they need a permit."
This applies to contractors working in town and since the fire chief has a full-time job, he cannot do these early morning inspections.
Pansecchi said a full-time firefighter could help with these inspections as well as make sure someone is always in the station. Two people would be available during the workday to respond to car accidents, house fires, fire alarms, water problems, and whatever else comes up.
There is no consistency in the number of firefighters available daily.
"From day to day, I can't tell you how many members I have in town. I can tell you that I have a 90-year-old and three 70-year-olds that are here most of the time," the chief said. "After that from day to day, hour to hour, it's hard to say."
He said these individuals would be the ones responding to fires if they are available.
Pansecchi said that even though he treats the position like a second full-time job there is a lot he simply can't get to.
"I do it because the job is a full-time job," he said. "But the stuff I can't get done puts liability on the district."
It is not just inspections, it is also hard to stay up to date on paperwork, review codes, attending training and applying for grants.
He said there is also maintenance that is delayed without someone full time in the station.
"It is limited just routine maintenance that we should be doing on the equipment that all has to be documented," Pansecchi said. "It is one of those things that no one cares about until something goes wrong and then everyone points fingers."
He has brought this to the Prudential Committee, which oversees the Fire District, and after a single workshop on the matter, members told him to just go public with the need to essentially let the voters decide.
"It was put in my hands, which to me is not a normal process," he said. "It puts me on the spot. I am going to put it in my budget. They will pass the budget, or they won't, at the annual meeting."
Pansecchi said he has not put together all of the numbers yet, but the two positions would likely cost district members an extra $20 or $25 annually depending on how funds are arranged.
The Prudential Committee is planning to address the proposal during upcoming budget meetings. The Water Department, which also falls under the committee's oversight, has several full-time paid employees.
The fire chief thought that since all members of the water district pay fire protection money, this would be a fair use.
Currently, the fire chief receives a $15,000 stipend.
Pansecchi looked back on the Facebook comments to his post and said many seem to be positive. He added that many responders didn't seem to know he was not a full-time fire chief.
His message to the district members was to not just take his word for it but do some of their own research.
"Do your research on this and talk to chiefs from other districts and see what they do," he said. "Don't just take my word on it. I have done my research, but I think it is important that people do their own. It may be an eye-opener."
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ADAMS, Mass. — Town meeting accepted all 28 articles on the annual town meeting warrant, including the controversial 40R zoning overlay and the fiscal 2021 budget of $16.3 million.
Town meeting was held outside at Bowe Field on Thursday to accommodate COVID-19 safety precautions and meeting members passed the bulk of the 28 articles in a single swift vote.
The night's discussion mostly focused on Article 20, the adoption of the 40R smart growth overlay district. This conversation started during the daylight and wrapped up around 7:40 p.m., long after the pavilion lights were turned on.
The state instituted 40R to incentivize developers to utilize existing structures to create market-value housing along with a certain percentage of affordable housing and commercial space. The statute provides incentives to towns, such as access to capital and a payment to municipalities to acknowledge and ease the impact of increased housing and traffic
Pending its blessings, the articles will then move to annual town meeting for final approval. The board passed on all 28 articles unamended but some came under brief scrutiny, mostly for clarification purposes.
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