Gardner Committee Reviews Public Safety Updates and Infrastructure Needs

During the recent Gardner Public Safety Committee meeting, a host of issues ranging from equipment upgrades for the fire department to infrastructure improvements were discussed.

The committee prioritized discussions on the fire department’s needs, including the application for 40 new heat and water-resistant radios, each at a cost of $366,000. The need for these radios was underscored by the current equipment’s inability to withstand harsh conditions. A regional Grant Specialist noted that the likelihood of grant approval was approximately 18 to 19%, but the committee remained hopeful, reflecting on past successful grants that funded crucial equipment like a new engine in 2017 and a washer dryer in 2020. The urgency for these upgrades was further emphasized by the fire department’s report of responding to 5,698 emergency calls in 2023. The fire department also reported significant patient contact and transport activity, with the ambulance making 2,816 patient contacts and transporting 2,211 patients to area hospitals. The vital role of the fire department was highlighted by a member of the public, who commended the quick response to a recent medical emergency.

In addition to equipment upgrades, the fire department discussed the recent damage to the fire headquarters roof caused by a windstorm, and the subsequent involvement of the city’s insurance company. The ongoing concerns about overtime and discussions with the fire union were also addressed, reflecting the committee’s attempt to balance work hours, family life, morale, and health for fire department personnel.

The committee’s focus then shifted to infrastructure matters. The meeting detailed the depletion of the overtime budget and the need to shift funds from the salary budget surplus to cover this. The nine-year-old building housing the committee’s operations was reported to have wear and tear issues, necessitating costly HVAC repairs and other maintenance work. City Hall maintenance was also a topic of concern, with the outdated heating system and the need for improvements to the roofing and front facade columns being highlighted.

Efforts to enhance operational efficiency were evident in the discussion about the Animal Control Officers and shelter. The retrofitting of the truck and plans to hire a new shelter attendant were mentioned, along with efforts to letter all code enforcement vehicles and outfit them with necessary computers or tablets.

The committee also discussed city ordinance amendments related to limited and handicap parking, including the introduction of two handicap spots around Monument Park and the removal of parking on certain streets to improve visibility and safety. These proposed changes were voted to be sent to the full council for consideration.

Additional updates from the Gardner Public Safety Committee included the progress of new police recruits completing their field training, the screening of two new recruits expected to start the academy in mid-October, and the status of new fire apparatus, including an ambulance scheduled for delivery in early May and a new engine and heavy rescue scheduled for delivery in July. The completion of preliminary specifications for a new tower ladder was also noted.

The Five Star Auto application was another topic of discussion, with issues of compliance and attorney representation being addressed. Plans to manage the cars behind the veterans’ building through attorney communication and engineering plans were also mentioned.

Furthermore, the meeting touched upon the challenges faced by the prevention departments, which outlined upcoming events and initiatives. These included health and wellness fairs, fundraisers, and projects for erosion control at the landfill. The need for upgrades to the pumping system for wastewater and erosion repairs to comply with landfill regulations was discussed, stressing the importance of environmental compliance and public health.

The Public Health department’s report on waiting for a schedule from the Monachus public health network for vaccine clinic staffing was mentioned, as was the Housing department’s effort in collaboration with an Assistant Attorney General from the neighborhood renewal project to identify houses suitable for receivership. This effort aimed to bring more houses back into the housing market. The Food department’s coordination for an upcoming food truck festival and the absence of foodborne illness complaints also came up.

A member of the public raised concerns about the condition of the transfer station, prompting the committee to confirm that plans for improvements, such as better infrastructure for the attendance area, restroom facilities, and water access, were included in budget requests.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Michael J. Nicholson
Public Safety Committee Officials:
Craig R. Cormier, Karen Hardern, Dana Heath

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