New Ipswich selectboard discusses emergency response, summer activities

  • Fire Chief Meredith Lund, Selectman Jay Hopkins, Selectman Tim Johnson, Selectboard Chair David Lage and Town Administrator Joanne Meshna at a selectboard meeting on Tuesday. Staff photo by Brandon Latham

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/4/2017 6:43:09 AM

Town officials met at the board of selectmen’s meeting in New Ipswich on Tuesday, May 2, to plan ongoing town business, including summer recreation department plans and the road paving bid.

The final portion of the meeting was the densest, as Chief Meredith Lund of the New Ipswich Fire Department addressed the board with proposals about the department’s future.

The structure to pay firefighters was previously agreed to be amended to simply and efficiently allocate stipends. Lund presented her proposal for the coming year.

“This is basically what we’ve had for a long time, but we simplified it,” she said to the members of the board of selectmen.

Stipends are paid biannually based on attendance and based on level of certification and whether the firefighter has emergency medical technician certification. Explorers can earn up to $400, non-certified firefighters up to $1,000, level I firefighters up to $1,200, level II firefighter up to $1,500, senior firefighter $1,750, lieutenant up to $2,000, captain up to $2,500 annually.

EMT certification makes firefighters eligible for up to $300 more. Those appointed fire wardens will receive an additional $200.

“That’s due to the extra work they’ll be doing and the extra hours they’ll put in to keep that certification and the extra things they’ll be doing,” Lund said of EMTs.

There is the possibility of earning bonuses to be paid at the chief’s discretion from the unpaid stipend balance. Selectmen want it amended to make the parameters for a bonus clearer. They contended that participating in things like championship parades is community volunteering and should not be paid.

Special details, like the Fourth of July fireworks, have an additional hourly wage.

The stipend award breakdown is based on percentages of calls, and meetings and training sessions attended.

Firefighters will earn their entire stipend with they attend 35 percent of calls or more and 65 percent of meetings and trainings or more. They will earn 90 percent if they attend 30 percent of calls and 60 percent of meetings and trainings. The award decreases in this pattern until it stops at half of the award for attending 10 percent of calls and 40 percent of meetings and trainings.

Worse participation than that cancels the firefighter’s stipend, and Lund said will lead the department to reconsider that firefighter’s future with the force. This is because, in part, stipends are not the only expense to keeping firefighters on staff, with insurance and gear coming out other budget lines.

The fire inspector will be paid $2,500, the administrative assistant will be paid $3,000, and the deputy chief will be paid $4,000.

The 2017 town budget allocates $10,000 for the chief’s stipend.

Lund also proposed to the board creating a contract with Souhegan Valley Ambulance Service, which she was surprised does not already exist.

“We’ve never actually had a contract with Souhegan Valley Ambulance Service, which surprised me because we don’t have any documentation of what we’re paying for,” she said.

According to state law, the head of the fire department, a town employee, is responsible for all emergency response. A written contract with SVAS would protect the town from liability in case of any ambulance-related incident.

The company serves Greenville and New Ipswich. It does not have a contract with either. In Greenville, payment to the service is a part of the town budget. It used to be in New Ipswich, but was moved into a warrant article to protect it against budget issues should the town budget fail. If there was a contract, the town would be obligated to honor it even if it were forced to use the default budget.

“I can’t imagine we’d have an arrangement and a partnership with any other service and not have a contract,” Lund said.

Selectman Tim Johnson, a firefighter, echoed, “I think it’s important to have a contract because if we cancel with Souhegan Valley we need to have a contract with someone else anyway.”

Many local towns have contracts with private ambulance services based in Wilton, Jaffrey or Peterborough. SVAS is based in New Ipswich on Turnpike Road across from the fire station.

The town plans to consult a lawyer for recommendation.

Before Lund appeared, the board handled other business, including advising the Sterns Burton Lecture Committee and reading the bids from companies to perform the town’s road work. A decision will be made after consulting the director of the highway department.

Mindy Buxton, director of recreation, pitched ideas for summer plans.

She hopes to perform work at the town part on Temple Road, including marking a walking trail through the woods and installing a permanent fire pit, both things the board is open to but seeking further consult.

The department will host five single night camps over the course of the summer corresponding with five previously scheduled movie nights. These camps will run from 4 to 8 p.m. and be $35 per child. Buxton expects about 12 kids at each for activities and swimming. They will be night of the movie series and activities will be tied to the movie – like basketball before viewing “Space Jam,” or history-themed crafts before viewing Hercules. At least one counselor will have to be a first-aid certified adult.

“If it’s self-sustaining, I don’t have a problem with it,” Selectman Jay Hopkins said as the board gave approval. “But you go to the revolving fund a lot, so I want to make sure it’s not to much and we still have something coming in.”

The recreation department will also bring back Mascenic High School senior night, previously hosted by the school district but dropped last year. Buxton called it a good opportunity to offer a chaperoned activity on the Thursday before graduation.

“In the past, this has always been respectful, and of course we would have adult supervision,” she said. “With this group of graduates, we have a lot of respectable kids in there who would discourage any sort of poor behavior.”

In addition to adult supervision, Buxton will look into a police detail. It would be at 8 p.m. that Thursday at the town park and include a barbecue.

“We can have the kids come in, have a fire, show a movie,” she said.


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