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Staff Writer

PEPPERELL — In what Selectmen Chairman Darrell Gilmore described as a “night I don’t look forward to,” selectmen have reorganized the three-member Board of Fire Engineers. Selectmen were forced to choose three from a list of four well-qualified candidates.

The list included current Chief Toby Tyler, Deputy Chiefs James Straitiff and Peter Shattuck and Ladder Co. Capt./EMT James Taplin. The fire board determines which engineer becomes chief for the coming year.

“Once again, there are three spots and four candidates,” Gilmore said. “Toby, I would see you stay as chief and Peter as deputy. Give Jim Taplin another chance.”

Selectman Lyndon Johnson said to Straitiff, “Jim, you’ve been deputy chief off and on. I’ll let Jim Taplin have a chance. Thank you for a good year.”

Selectman Joseph Sergi concurred. “Great job,” he said, “I would see Jim Taplin go forward.”

“You have four good people in front of you, yet you must make a choice,” Johnson said.

Prior to the vote, Sergi had asked the candidates for a list of goals for 2009, a “measure of milestones, for example training, equipment, staffing, etc.”

Shattuck described the future as “challenging” given the financial position of the town. “Any of us know we all try hardest to get the most bag for the buck and the Finance Committee has made it clear we’re in trouble in a way,” he said.

Tyler’s list included getting SOGs (standard operating guidelines) in order, acquiring a new ambulance in 2010, and organizing the next round of five-month training sessions to begin in May.

“As a goal we need two full-time people on daytimes. We don’t have the help we should have,” Tyler warned. “We used to have day personnel but no more. Some got off the department, some got jobs, and many people have two or three jobs.”

Taplin said firefighter safety is a goal to be stressed in training.

Asked about updating safety buildings, Shattuck said, “We’re always looking at it and it has come up for years. It’s too big for us to handle — millions of dollars. There was talk of having an ambulance here (at Town Hall). Which way do we go? Park Street (fire station) is a good location but the lot is too small. Do we build? Tear down? We don’t know about these things.”

Shattuck added that the newly acquired tanker truck would have been an entirely different vehicle, had it not been designed to fit in the Park Street station

Johnson recalled talks of building upper story offices at Park Street.

Town administrator Robert Hanson said the town would be better off demolishing the building and starting fresh.

“You guys definitely have stuff to do,” said Gilmore.