Voters approve capital expenditures for fire, police
By Bonnie Adams
Westborough – The approximately 100 voters who came to the Annual Town Meeting May 14 passed most of the 26 articles on the warrant with little or no discussion, including an article related to the town's overall budget. But several articles, regarding requests for capital expenditures and repairs for several town buildings, including the Veteran's of Foreign Wars (VFW) building, were only approved after much debate.
Fire Chief Walter Perron was asked by several of the voters to explain why he was requesting $30,000 for a new defibrillator and $40,000 for a new thermal-imaging camera.
The defibrillator, Perron explained, was not like ones found in many commercial establishments. Rather, it was a sophisticated model with software that paramedics could use to transfer important information to hospital emergency rooms. 60 percent of the town's emergency calls required advanced life support measures, he added.
A new thermal-imaging camera was needed, he said, because a current one that the Fire Department uses is a “first generation” camera past its prime.
“It is taken into every structure fire and helps the firefighters see through all the dark smoke,” he noted, “and can help them see if there is a victim in the room.” He added that there are approximately 20-25 structure fires in the town each year.
Both articles were ultimately approved.
Both Perron and Police Chief Alan Gordon were also challenged by several voters to explain why they were requesting new vehicles for their particular departments. Perron was requesting $40,000 for a new four-wheel vehicle and Gordon was requesting $87,730 for two new police cruisers.
Perron said the new vehicle would replace a 1999 model that had over 100,000 miles on it. Several voters noted that they themselves had cars with high mileage and thus, they couldn's understand why the current fire department vehicle couldn's continue to be used for a longer period of time.
Perron noted that “this is an emergency vehicle – it is highly maintained” but the department did not want to take the chance of something going wrong with it at an inopportune time. The vehicle, he added, carried a large amount of important life saving equipment on it.
Gordon, in defending his requests for the two new police cruisers, also reiterated the need for vehicles that were in excellent working order. The two cruisers that were being replaced had high mileage as well, he said, and thus, were not considered 100 percent safe, especially if used in situations such as high-pursuit chases or if officers needed to respond quickly to incidents on one of the area's highways.
After a lengthy discussion, $330,000 was approved for necessary repairs for the Forbes Municipal Building roof. Town Manager Jim Malloy told the voters that after an inspection earlier this year, the roof was deemed to be in poor condition and must be fixed before the onset of another winter.
After resident Gary Wells proposed that the monies be taken from free cash instead of raised and appropriated, the voters agreed and passed the measure.
The voters also agreed for $250,000 to be taken from free cash to pay for repairs to a ceiling in the Hastings Elementary School where asbestos had been discovered.
A citizen's petition to release a deed restriction regarding the (VFW) building was also approved. Proponents of the article asked that the restriction, which would return ownership of the building to the town if the VFW ever abandoned the building, be deleted. This was necessary, VFW member John Matson explained, because the VFW was seeking to make improvements to the building, including making it compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. But they were unable to get funding from any banks, he added, with the deed restriction in place.
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