Westborough Fire Department proposes town meeting warrant articles

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

A new program by Explorer Post 85 and the Westborough Fire Department will offer an introduction to firefighting through an academy-style training process. Photos/Dakota Antelman
(Photo/Dakota Antelman)

WESTBOROUGH – Two proposed town meeting warrant articles would ask voters to approve projects addressing fire alarm infrastructure and fire department computer software, department officials explained in a presentation to the Westborough Select Board on Sept. 14.

Contract would fund removal of outdated fire alarm cables

The first article relates to fire alarm infrastructure, which Fire Chief Patrick Purcell said currently operates through radio boxes that transmit radio waves. A receiver at the Fire Station then decodes those radio waves. 

Prior to 2006, however, the fire alarm infrastructure was based on what Purcell called dirty copper wiring. That wiring has not been fully removed from Westborough’s poles. 

“We have been piecemealing since I have become the chief because we have double poles in town,” Purcell said. “We have some where they have cut the pole up high and left it. That is pretty much our fault.”

Purcell said that the Fire Department had started to take the wire down themselves, purchasing a bucket truck for that purpose. However, he said that the Fire Department is not really suited to this task.

“We have no business in that space,” Purcell said. “We’re asking for problems, nor are we certified by OSHA to be working in a bucket truck.”

Purcell said that there is an estimated 94,000 feet of cable still left out on poles in town. The Fire Department has taken down between 10 and 15 percent of the cable that was initially on poles.

The warrant article would allocate approximately $30,000 to hire an aerial crew from FiberTech Services, Inc. to remove the old cables and dispose of them in a dumpster. Purcell said the Fire Department was still trying to get additional quotes assessing how much the project would cost as of Sept. 14.

It should not be significantly more than $19,000, though, he said.

“The reason we are asking for $30,000 is we’re required to provide a dumpster and disposal, and also police details,” Purcell continued. 

Select Board member Shelby Marshall noted that the Town of Westborough had been asked by the National Grid to take down the wiring as it is interfering with replacement of poles.

Fire Department seeks to update computer software

The other warrant article would pay for an upgrade to Fire Department computer software. 

Deputy Chief Jason Ferschke said that, since 2016, the Fire Department has been using a program called IMC as part of a joint dispatch with the Westborough Police Department. 

Despite their efforts, Ferschke said that the software has not worked well for the Fire Department.

“It is really designed for law enforcement,” he said. “It is not designed for the fire service.”

Ferschke said that the Fire Department wants to adopt a new piece of software, First Due, that is designed for use by fire services. The new software, he said, would help the fire department with pre-planning, fire prevention, emergency response and a number of other areas.

The system is cloud-based and not server-based, Ferschke added, which will make it more difficult to hack into.

“This is pretty much considered the gold standard,” Ferschke said. “This is a comprehensive program and it’s one that is appealing.”

Ferschke said the upgraded software for the fire department would have no impact on the use of IMC for Westborough Police.

A draft of the town meeting article estimates that maintenance of this software would cost roughly $29,000 per year.

Town meeting to take place next month

This year’s special town meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Westborough High School Auditorium. 

Though the warrant had not been finalized as of Sept. 18, the Fire Department’s two articles were included on a recent draft warrant.