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Selectmen Hear From Fire Department Location Experts

The following is part of the transcript from the Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 30, 2014. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

7:35 p.m. – The meeting came out of executive session with the pledge of allegiance. There were no public comments in open forum.

The scheduled dates of an expected three day license suspension for Evviva Cucina and Westford Market were postponed, a change in manager holding the liquor license at Chili’s was approved.

7:37 p.m. – The meeting then went to a discussion of a study analyzing the possible locations for a new fire station in town.

Permanent Town Building Committee chairman Tom Mahanna introduced consultants Travis Miller and Jason Harris to talk about upcoming steps .

Miller said one of the biggest issues is defining an “optimal” location for a new fire station.

He said that no system will provide equal amounts of service everywhere, so the question is either approaching the most land area, the most people or getting the highest risk structures.

Response time depends on the observer, with discovery of the problem and the time of day impacting response time as well as drive time, with drive time being the only thing that can be impacted by this study.

The biggest things to look at during the study are response to fires as well as helping with cardiac arrests, with the ideal being getting units on scene within four minutes or less more than 90 percent of the time.

Miller then talked about standards used for distances, ISO, NFPA-1710 and CPSE. ISO is the oldest of the standards, NFPA-1710 is best used for cities over 500,000 people and CPSE is generally used for more suburban areas where a process is used rather than the more uniform guidelines of NFPA-1710.

He said that Westford must use 1710 to some extent, even if only for informational concerns, but CPSE could be used if Westford accepts it as its “formal standard of cover” process.

The first recommendation from him was that at minimum, nothing should be made any worse by any changes to fire station locations.

The next recommendation was to allow a GIS model to discover “optimal” locations for stations, as well as analyzing a cost/benefit analysis. However, the board would need to let Miller know whether to focus specifically on response times or if any financial impacts should be taken into account along with response times.

Miller then said that the likely expectation would be to “lock in” the Nabnasset and Forge Village stations.

He said that CVS and Walgreen use the same system to determine travel time, only in reverse, that’s why so many of them are near each other.

Miller than asked the board whether they would like him to look at new sites or already vetted lists of sites as well as whether the town will or won’t stick with three stations in the future.

Board of Selectmen chairwoman Andrea Peraner-Sweet then walked into the room.

Mahanna then asked the Selectmen if they had any more questions and said he and the experts would work on the assumption that the Rogers and Nabnasset Stations would not be moved.

Selectman Don Siriani said in response times, the roles of each station can also have a role

Miller said he had a discussion on that was helpful with the chief that was helpful, particularly regarding where specific pieces of equipment should go at separate stations throughout town.

He then asked if ambulances might be deployed differently, since this might impact where the stations go.

Harris then said there would be some general information to start with, such as GIS data.

Siriani then asked about components assessed other than distance and square footage.

One was staffing as well as dispatch needs, with smaller and combined uses reducing footprint and cost.

Siriani then talked about other communities nearby and how Westford is doing in comparison in its planning process for looking at a new fire station.

Harris said that Westford has been responsive in terms of giving information needed to help with the process and that it has been useful not having politics in place handcuffing the process to certain locations.

Miller said that occasionally other towns he’s been to have had studies to quiet certain citizens, saying that in Andover they had to do a new study to please a powerful citizen that ultimately came up with the same result.

Selectman Kelly Ross asked what doing no harm means since removing the center fire station would theoretically hurt someone.

Miller said that currently people at the town center get better service than people two miles away. He elaborated that it’s good to look at where call density occurs.

He also said that multiple years need to be looked at due to catastrophic events that can occur in certain years.

Kelly Ross then asked Mahanna if certain properties were being looked at, Mahanna said a list had been given, with most town-owned, and some in the Boston Road/110 area, but they weren’t being steered toward any solution.

Kelly Ross then asked if the entire list of sites was being looked at and nothing was being overwritten.

Miller then said that all the sites were being looked at through an algorithm that is snapped to a road network that will provide a solution for a third station. However, a list of criteria and possibilities is needed.

Kelly Ross then asked if this is supposed to be done by the end of December whether this would be on the March Town Meeting.

Mahanna said that is the goal.

Harris said that what would be looked at is not just the needs of today, but Westford 15 to 20 years from now.

Selectman Scott Hazelton elaborated on that and asked if that would impact open space planning for the next several years.

Miller said that demographic projections would be taken into account and that some properties may never be developed due to requirements of town and that needed to be taken into account.

Hazelton then asked if different scenarios can be given between three and four fire stations.

Miller said yes, and in one town, over 6.1 million options were given.

Hazelton asked if the fourth station would change the location of the third station, and Miller said that was likely, although it wasn’t guaranteed and factors in the future could change the locations recommended by the algorithm.

The stations in Andover were an example of this due to the age of the stations there.

Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost asked about the two stations that won’t be moved, particularly the size of the Nabnasset station limiting what they can do.

Miller said it doesn’t need to be fixed, and that he doesn’t like learning that a fire station already built was built in a bad place.

Hazelton said that in the future it might be worth looking at this someday.

Mahanna concluded that they were asking Jason and Miller to look at potential red flags and were asking the Selectmen for criteria they should look for.

Peraner-Sweet asked the board if they were comfortable how the experts were proceeding.

Siriani asked Fire Chief Joe Targ for his opinion.

Targ said that with the amount of calls going on, it’s good to look at all options, and they’re very comfortable with the experts right now.

Peraner-Sweet said she expects to see the experts after the first of January.

 

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