Adams to hold vote on 2 Fire Department positions

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ADAMS — Voters will soon decide if the town should have a full-time fire chief and add a second full-time position at the department to help cover emergency calls during the day, when most volunteers are out of town at work.

Adams Fire Chief John Pansecchi had asked that the Prudential Committee propose that the department bring on the two full-time positions because of a lack of new volunteers, and a shortage of them in town during the day in case of a fire call. He also said the duties of the fire chief have overtaken the part-time hours for which he is paid.

The election is set for noon to 6 p.m. May 14 at the Adams Fire Station, 3 Columbia St., according to Thomas Satko, chairman of the Adams Prudential Committee.

The first question on the ballot is: "Shall the position of Chief Engineer [Fire Chief] be made a full time position?"

The second question is: "Shall a position of Fire Fighter be made a full time position?"

Satko noted that there will be an informational meeting for voters who have questions about the ballot questions at 6:30 p.m. April 22 at the Adams Fire Department.

The chief proposed the idea to the Prudential Committee, which then decided to put it to voters.

"We thought it's a large enough item to our members that we should give them a chance to vote on it," Satko said. "We have a lot of elderly folks living on a fixed income we have to consider."

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Residents of the fire district pay a yearly fee of $84 per housing unit. If the chief and the firefighter are authorized by the voters, they would start in July 2020 and the annual fee would increase to $121.

An informational letter sent to voters explains that the duties of the fire chief have grown over the years and require more time to fulfill. Those duties include fire prevention, overseeing vehicle and equipment maintenance, filling out reports after fire calls, maintaining training records, code compliance inspections, attending meetings with other connected agencies, emergency planning and responding to complaints.

It also notes that the chief's compensation would rise from $16,000 to about $65,000 per year, and benefits would add an additional $30,000. The cost of a full-time chief would add about $26 to the annual fee per housing unit.

Cost-of-living increases would result in a 3% hike every year.

As for a full-time firefighter, Prudential Committee members said the addition would help to cut response times for emergency calls and ensure that a qualified firefighter would be on scene quickly, and help with daily and weekly safety checks, documentation and equipment maintenance. The position would pay about $40,000 per year, with benefits costing an additional $30,000. It would increase the annual fee by about $15.50.

Satko noted that if the measures pass, the positions would be advertised and applicants evaluated based on their experience, training and qualifications.

After the election, at the 7 p.m. Prudential Committee annual meeting, officials will ask voters to approve an 11% water rate increase, from $80 to $84 per 1,000 gallons.

The cost increase is due to mandates from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requiring a variety of planning and equipment upgrades, including replacement of aged-out water meters. If voters decline to approve the measures, state and federal enforcement actions likely would begin, Satko noted.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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