HARVARD — Fire Chief Joseph Sicard told selectmen Tuesday night that his department hopes to use the front half of the Stow Road gravel pit as a training ground.
With board approval, they’d conduct controlled burns at the site, which has a water hole, he said.
The selectmen were mostly receptive but they had questions and concerns.
Bill Johnson asked Sicard if he’d considered alternative sites. Other towns with firefighter training facilities they’d be willing to share, for example.
Sicard said yes, but that would mean a number of firefighters and equipment would be out of town at the same time, which could be risky. With an in-town site, they’d be at home if needed, he said.
Asked about cost, Sicard said he anticipated no expense to the town at this point.
The plan is for grants and donations to pay for the setup, including corrugated steel containers for controlled burns and possibly installing an underground pipe to tap into the on-site water supply.
“I’m excited that you’re taking the initiative to improve training,” Tim Clark said, noting that his commitment to do so was one of the reasons Sicard was hired. But access to the water hole comes under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. “We can’t authorize that,” he said.
Johnson said the other board would likely hold a public hearing, which would satisfy selectmen’s key concern. That is, how abutters feel about having a firefighter training facility as a neighbor.
The question then became whether selectmen should initiate a “separate activity” to notify the public that such a plan is in the works.
Peter Warren said that would be overdoing it. “I think we’re getting in too deep here,” he said. He suggested that Sicard could do neighborhood outreach himself.
Besides, the Fire Department can be trusted to do the right thing and the public knows it. “I think we should support this,” he said.
Ron Ricci agreed, to a point. “Let’s see how the Conservation Commission process goes,” he said. But neighbors must be included.
“I’m not prepared to endorse this idea yet,” Johnson concluded. He wanted to hear back from the other board first and gauge public response. And he was still interested in exploring other sites, he said.
Sicard agreed to take care of every item on the selectmen’s list and come back with his request when all the bases had been covered.