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My job as the Gilmanton Fire Chief is to have the best interests of residents at heart

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

An open letter to Gilmanton residents:

It was my hope to leave my pen down, and not have to address you all once again in this forum.
After Selectman Guarino's letter on March 6, I was compelled to leave you one more note. I appreciate a good letter to the editor and it is a great way to exchange ideas and information. Mr. Guarino's letter was not accurate on several fronts and it makes it necessary to rebut so that, as a voter, you are well equipped when you enter the voting booth on March 11.

I did indeed make a motion to amend petition warrant Article 30 at deliberative session. This was merely to add language to the article that would clarify its intent. The amendment to the article was the insertion of the number "4" in front of the word full-time positions. This amendment was simply a response to the board's attempt to eliminate a full-time FF/AEMT position that has been funded since 2004.

Article 30 now reads, "To see if the voters will continue to support the current 208 hours of weekly paid Fire Department coverage using both "4" full-time, and part-time certified personnel as has been past practice."

At this time the board is looking to replace a decade-old permanent position with two part-time positions. We are fortunate that we have a great part-time resource pool at this time. The part-timers who currently fill shifts for us are our own call members who live in town and are employed by other departments or agencies for their full-time jobs.

On our typical schedule with four full-time employees, we fill only 24 hours per week of part-time staffing. With the reduction of a full-time position we would be looking to staff a total of 72 hours per week of part-time staffing. At the present time this works, as our part-time staff is stepping up and filling shifts to help out with the anticipation of filling the vacant full-time position. This is not a long-term solution. Consistent staffing of 72 hours per week may prove difficult going forward, as our current labor pool is limited. The part-time slots are filled at their convenience. Their first priority is to their own full-time job.

Reducing a full-time position, to two part-time positions offers its own unique challenges. Hiring part-time employees from out of town will prove to be problematic. Part-time employees need to be trained and equipped. Each part-time employee must be supplied with personal protective equipment at the cost of nearly $3,000 per person. Part-time employees are far more transient than permanent employees. They may come and go as fast as a full-time opportunity avails itself. We would be faced with hiring and equipping on a 2/1 ratio if we move to a part-time schedule, as 24 hours is the cap on time allowed for a part-time employee.

In order to consistently support a 72-hour per week schedule, a large pool of qualified candidates would need to be developed, supplied with training and gear.

Mr. Guarino states that the board spent months trying to convince me to have EMT-I serve on Sundays. In fact, a review of 2013 scheduling shows 45 weeks of EMT-I coverage and seven weeks of EMT-B coverage. The seven weeks with an EMT–B was simply a result of not having the part-time resources to fill these shifts. Sundays have always been filled with certified and licensed personnel. I have followed every directive I have received from the Board of Selectman, and I will continue to do so.
Our department continues to provide the very best in care to our community. There has been no instance, that I have been made aware of, that our community is unhappy with the current staffing pattern and service we provide. I have provided countless data supporting our current staffing pattern. This continues to fall on deaf ears. I see absolutely no rationale or merit in changing our current schedule, and I have expressed my concerns to the board. Article 30 supports a level-funded budget with no increases.

My job as your fire chief is to have your best interest in mind. I have been hired to make decisions relative to your safety. I have been hired to develop the best service we can provide within the constraints of the town budget to provide. I have been a member of the Gilmanton Fire Department for over 35 years. I'm very proud to be associated with the men and woman that currently serve our department as well as those that have served before us, and laid the very foundation on which we operate. Their desire and ours remain the same, and that is to provide the best in emergency service to our town.

Please Vote "yes" on Article 30. Thank you for your continued support.

Chief Paul J. Hempel III