To The Daily Sun,
I am writing today in response to Bill Donovan's letter regarding a recent Gilmanton selectmen's meeting, which I attended. Mr. Donovan felt it necessary to single me out in his writings, but I do wish he had admitted he was stating his opinion rather than facts. Being someone who attended the meeting, he certainly didn't pay much attention. I would like to point out that Mr. Donovan is not a member of the Fire Department or Fire Association and to my knowledge never has been. I, on the other hand, have been involved with the department for over 30 years and an EMT for 14 yrs. For some reason, Mr. Donovan was reluctant to mention what I actually spoke about at the meeting, only pointing out my question as to why the group had come to the meeting as association members rather than department members. I think I am the only department member who is no longer an association member. When I left the association it was because I was unhappy about the way they wanted to spend their money. It also bothered me because I had previously gone to Joe Hempel as it had become obvious to me that someone had been taking money. I asked for an audit but he declined to agree as it would be an embarrassment to the association.
I would like to be clear that I never challenged the association's right to speak or the general public's right to speak. I for one think public input should be open from start to finish at the meetings. I raised the question for this reason: by the group attending as associaiton members it would preclude me from speaking, as I was no longer an association member. Had it not been for Mrs. Donovan speaking out of turn, the chairman never would have opened public input early. But in order to allow Mrs. Donovan her opinion he did it as a courtesy, therefore I was also given the opportunity to speak when it was my turn.
As Mr. Donovan stated, my husband is a selectman. I'm not quite sure what bearing this has on my right to ask a question. I attended selectmen's meetings long before he became a selectman and probably will continue to attend when he gives up his seat.
I would ask Mr. Donovan to do a little bit of research before his next writing as he didn't have all of the information needed to give a clear picture of the actual situation with the fire chief. To put it in a nutshell, the Gilmanton taxpayers are already paying for 184 man hours of FULL-TIME Fire Department personnel per week to staff a minimum of two full-time employees, seven days per week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (which was presented and voted on in 2004). This could be done with 168 man hours IF Chief Hempel would adjust his own work schedule. This would still allow him an additional 16 hours to do his administrative duties as well as reduce the part-time budget. But more importantly it would reduce the burden on the Gilmanton taxpayers. INSTEAD he is opting to hire part-time people to cover a Sunday shift at an ADDITIONAL $29,000 cost to the taxpayers. This increase means the taxpayers are now paying for 208 man hours per week for only 168 hours of coverage. What the CHIEF'S LACK OF COOPERATION boils down to is; the taxpayers are paying twice for Sunday coverage all because the chief himself does not want to cover two shifts per week even though it would not increase his 40 hour work week. I would also like to mention that when the chief comes out after hours it might be because he gets a very nice stipend to do so. I guess Mr. Donovan wasn't aware of that either.
The selectmen are only doing what they have been elected to do which are to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In my opinion, the problem is that the chief has never been challenged by any past boards of selectmen and that's why he keeps throwing around the RSA about the board not being able to "tell him what to do". From what Mr. Capello, the town administrator said at the meeting, the board has already gotten the opinion from legal counsel as to the warrant article they are putting forward regarding the chief being a "working chief".
Since Mr. Donovan neglected to mention what I spoke about, here it is: When the association's rep. said something to the effect of, the chief not having time to perform his administrative duties should he become a "working chief", I felt I had to correct him. Before Chief Hempel became chief for the third time, he called me at my home and asked me to support him becoming a part-time chief rather than a full-time chief. He went on in detail as to why Gilmanton only required a part-time chief as we were such a small community the position did not require a Chief to be full-time. He tried very hard to convince me because he wanted to keep his full-time job and just be a part-time chief. I told him I was not for this idea. The next thing I knew he had been hired as the full-time chief, yet again. The reason I wasn't for the idea wasn't because I didn't agree with him, it was only because I didn't want him to be chief for a third time. And as it turns out, I still stand by that opinion.
I would not have been writing this letter had it not been for the inaccuracies by Mr. Donovan. I would however like to thank him for giving me a reason.