By Jon Bishop
HARVARD — After some confusion at the last Board of Selectmen meeting about Harvard Fire Department Engine 2, Human Resource Director/Assistant Town Administrator Marie Sobalvarro, in an item not listed on the agenda, asked the selectmen Tuesday whether they had any follow-up questions about what the department is doing.
Chief Rick Sicard also came to the meeting to better explain the process. In a letter he wrote to the board, he said he “should have made it clearer that this engine is not really a replacement of old Engine 2 as much as a brand new philosophy of how the fire department responds to the types of calls we anticipate receiving now and in the future.
“With this unplanned opportunity to replace Engine 2, we formed a committee to examine and reevaluate the entire philosophy of our department’s emergency response,” he said in the letter. “Our conclusions led us to configure the replacement Engine 2 as our new front line attack engine. In doing so we are strengthening our ability to respond to a wider range of emergencies.”
According to Sicard, “the new Engine 2 will be able to carry 6 firefighters, 750 gallons of water, 20 gallons of pre-piped foam, a deck gun, 1,250 gpm pump, 5 times more 4-inch hose than Engine 3, a full compliment of rescue equipment (including the “Jaws of Life,” rescue air bags, and stabilizing equipment) and significantly more equipment storage than the current Engine 2 or Engine 3.”
Currently, Engine 3 is the first piece out the door, Sicard said.
“This is a change in strategy,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Stu Sklar. Before, they didn’t understand what the rational is, he said. After seeing the letter, they could see the new truck is much more flexible.
But some selectmen said that process wasn’t followed.
Selectman Ron Ricci said this news should have come out four or five months ago — when the Capital Committee and the Finance Committee were reviewing it.
“The process has been a comedy of errors,” he said. “At the very last minute, we find out, ‘no, it’s not the same truck.”
They’ve been getting something different every time this comes up for discussion, he said.
“I was confused with the way the process unfolded,” he said.
He said they should “take a time out” and work with Town Administrator Tim Bragan.
Selectman Leo Blair agreed, noting that the process should be slowed down. It shouldn’t be another “hurry up decision.” He agreed with Ricci and said he would feel more comfortable if Ricci, Bragan, and Sicard sat down and discussed everything.
Sklar said they should make the fire truck an action item for next meeting. The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved Sicard to schedule out of state travel to acquire the fire truck, which would also give time for more discussion.
Laura Andrew of the Town Hall Construction Committee updated the board on the progress of the project. She said members of the committee are assigned to various tasks: Change orders, finances, scheduling.
“We did turn the building site over to the general contractor on the 21st of April,” she said. “They start their construction meetings (April 29).”
These meetings are not public, she said. They’re for those who are involved in the construction.
The Town Hall Construction Committee will meet weekly until there is no longer a need, she said.
“But we don’t know when that will be,” she said.
Andrews said they do have one change order already, and it is miscellaneous metals.
“It will add to the general contract $27,000,” she said.
Rick Maiore explained that the addition won’t increase the bottom line, only that specific line item.
“What we’re going to do now is we’re going to make an operating budget,” he said. Before, they had a bidding budget.
“This is a hard budget,” he said.
Selectman Lucy Wallace said “it’s great that you’re on schedule so far.”
“It’s all positive to see this action happening,” she said.
Sklar agreed, praising Town Hall staff and others for their “exceptionally good work” in moving to the Old Library.
“You got Town Hall emptied out,” he said. “We got in (the Old Library) relatively smoothly.”
* The Board of Selectmen reorganized at the end of the meeting. Ron Ricci was unanimously voted the new chairman; Ken Swanton was unanimously voted vice chairman; and Stu Sklar was unanimously voted clerk. On his chairmanship, Sklar said, “It’s been a very interesting year.”
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