, Salem, MA

January 28, 2013

Our view: Boosting Wenham Fire Department makes sense

The Salem News

---- — The town of Wenham has grown in recent years, and in a good way. At the same time, the availability of its on-call firefighters has been on the wane.

So a recent study suggesting that the town increase the Fire Department chief’s job to full time (from 30 hours a week) and hire another full-time firefighter seems to make sense.

Fire Chief Robert Blanchard said many of the town’s on-call firefighters live and work outside town, or have professional obligations that limit their availability. At times, the fire station is unstaffed during some peak hours and holidays.

“Our biggest concern is our response time is getting longer, and the number of on-call responders continues to drop,” Blanchard said.

In addition to boosting the chief’s hours and adding a full-timer, the study by Blanchard and other town officials suggests developing shifts for call firefighters to maximize station coverage, especially during late afternoon and early evening.

The proposed changes would cost the town about $113,000, which the study suggests could be made up from $40,000 in savings from joining the regional dispatch center, $35,000 in lieu of taxes from Gordon College and $20,000 from the Penguin Hall development.

Town Administrator Mark Andrews said he has included his proposal in the budget for the next fiscal year. On April 6, Town Meeting voters should give it their support.