By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough Fire Chief Patrick Purcell was busy at the Aug. 15 Board of Selectmen meeting. Three items on the meeting’s agenda were relevant to the fire department. The first item involved the labor agreement between the town and the International Association of Firefighters Local 3070.
The contract includes verbiage changes that will affect the new deputy chief position being outside the purview of the union, a revised promotion process, clarification on language relevant to “acting” positions, stipend modifications for fire officer I & II, modifications to other EMTS/paramedics, a new position of firefighter/communications/IT liaison to reflect some additional duties and stipends. The agreement will cover the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.
Selectman Ian Johnson noted, “The negotiations went well and were cordial and without outside parties or negotiators…Thank you to the assistant town manager and the fire chief but also to the Firefighter Association as well, it’s a very good contract.”
The board approved the contract unanimously.
The second item presented by Chief Purcell involved raising fire prevention fees to bring them in line with neighboring towns and towns across the commonwealth. One of the most common fees is the inspection of smoke detectors when a transfer of real estate occurs. He requested raising the fee for a single residence to $50 and $100 for a multi-family dwelling of three or more units.
According to Purcell, “Our current fee structure is a $20 fee for all permits and inspections. We have not increased our fees for over 20 years and I believe it’s long overdue.”
The board approved the fee increase without reservation.
The final Fire Department agenda item involved the dispatch supervisor job description as presented by Purcell who reported that in December 2016, the department took over the control of the public safety communications center. Westborough currently has nine full-time dispatchers and six per diem dispatchers with a staff member on military deployment. The center is challenged and currently is operating without a supervisor.
“I don’t have a supervisor in that room for the 15 employees and every time they have a question and every time they do a schedule or fill a shift, it’s on me or they go to the deputy,” Purcell said. “They really need someone to oversee the policy enforcement, do the schedule, making sure the payroll goes to the secretary, answering all their day to day questions, and I need a buffer there.”
Purcell said that he has the ability to fund the position without adding to the staff through the state 911 grants and within his budget. The job description was written by Purcell and the assistant town manager and he does not anticipate any problems with the union.
Selectman Chair Denny Drewry sought clarification whether a new person would need to be hired and Purcell said he would be promoting from within the department. He has the ability to tap into funding for additional per diem staff to ease the shift in staffing.
Selectman Ian Johnson asked whether or not this issue needed to go before Town Meeting and Assistant Town Manager Kristi Williams reassured the board that it did not. The board then approved the job description.