By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – At the meeting Sept. 9, the Board of Selectmen had their first look at the warrant for the Oct. 19 fall Town Meeting, including articles that would rescind the Strong Fire Chief statute in place since 1968 and authorize spending $176,000 for a hazardous materials and border survey of the State Hospital property.
Selectmen did not close the warrant, but made plans to discuss some articles in more depth in coming weeks.
The board will meet with the Spurr House Committee, for instance, to discuss an article that seeks $50,000 to demolish the now-vacant town-owned building, and also asked the interim fire chief to attend a future meeting to discuss a requested $470,000 to purchase a fire pumper truck.
The board did briefly discuss the change of the fire chief’s status with a representative of town counsel.
Under the state’s Strong Fire Chief statute, a chief has total authority of the department, including hiring and firing decisions. Westborough adopted the statute in 1968 and communities often revisit the topic when a longtime chief retires, as is the case in Westborough.
If the statute is rescinded, selectmen would then be the final appointing authority for all department positions, as is currently the procedure within the police department.
Selectman Denny Drewry said that doesn’t mean selectmen would interfere with the department’s operation. He noted that the board has almost always deferred to the chief in that instance.
“We don’t know enough to take control,” he said.