LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fire Station Issue Cannot Be Money, the Issue Must Be Saving Lives
A letter from Jim lane.
To the editor:
A fire department is a key element of the public safety of any community. Chelmsford is no different. A well-equipped and properly trained fire department plays a pivotal role in attracting new residents and businesses to the community. It is more than population migration that underlies the need for a fire department. It is also more than housing equipment that defines the need for a station.
The Chelmsford Fire Department's first mission is life safety! That means protecting the citizens of Chelmsford by the best means possible. Your emergency becomes their emergency and they do their best to always be ready to assist you, no matter what the emergency brings.
Public fire protection services can include, but are not limited to, fire suppression, fire prevention, public safety education, emergency management, rescue, emergency medical service, hazardous materials response and response to other emergencies such as children stuck in bathrooms or standing by at large events.
Emergencies take no holidays and fighting fire is more than responding to the call. It is careful planning; training; resource allocation; and strategic, proactive personnel deployment. Planning for what might happen instead of just reacting when something does happen. The job of a fire department does not simply begin when the alarm sounds and the trucks roll out of the fire station. It is an ongoing evaluation of where to place resources at the right places to be ready in a moment's notice as close to the emergency as possible. All studies have shown that the proper recourse includes five fire stations with facilities that will fit the needs of the community.
Chelmsford is more than 22 square miles which includes two interstate highways, two lakes, a major river and 34,000 people who call Chelmsford home. The current five station configuration has been in place since the early 1920’s when the population was less than 10,000 and has been proven to be the best way to provide our residents with the very best response when a life safety emergency appears. Our current center fire station was built in 1952 long before the town matured to where we are today and is no longer structurally stabile nor does it fit the needs of the community.
Chelmsford is fortunate in many ways. We have a well-trained and dedicated team of men and women within our fire department that put their lives on the line to keep us safe each and every day. Chelmsford consists of intelligent folks who do their homework, understand the needs of the community and truly know the importance of public safety.
A new station will accomplish several goals of the fire department for the short and the long term. For the short term, a new station will house all of the required equipment in a central location to achieve better response times with the proper apparatus when emergencies occur. It will provide the training space necessary to ensure our fire department maintains the very best education, it will provide for adequate sleeping areas, showers, decontamination chamber, vehicle and equipment maintenance, and provide space for the day to day operations. In the long term it will provide for the future needs of the town for the next 50 years.
Chelmsford taxpayers have a unique opportunity that many communities across the Commonwealth would envy. The debt service for a new fire station would be funded within the allowed 2.5% annual increase in property tax. Due to the decrease in the town’s excluded debt service for the sewer and school projects, the overall increase to the taxpayer will be less than 2.5%.
On Tuesday April 3rd, you have an opportunity to inform town leaders how important it is they prepare for the future of our town and provide the adequate public safety facilities our community needs. I respectfully ask you to vote YES on the advisory question for funding a new fire station within the existing budget.
Chelmsford Board of Selectmen