Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Equipment, Old Home

AFD Chief Nelson, Assistant Chiefs McKay and Stromgren at JCPC meeting 2/20

Amherst Fire Department capital requests for FY15 (starts July1st) has a h-u-g-e bottom line number, $8,555,000 -- or almost twice their $4,358,412 operation budget for the upcoming year.

But you can, unfortunately, immediately scratch $8,000,000.   Because that is the first year installment ($4 million in year #2) on a new $12 million South Amherst Fire Station -- a Holy Grail talked about since the 1950s.

For the last couple years it shows up in the capital request line item as a placeholder, or what Finance Director Sandy Pooler described as an "Important reminder ... here to keep it on the radar screen." 

But the problem with keeping it on the radar screen so very long is, it starts to get tuned out.

About half the remaining ($555,000) budget request will go towards a new ambulance ($255,000) a standard workhorse machine on a ten year replacement cycle.  Although they do not yet make reliable enough hybrid vehicles for emergency first responders, the new ambulance will have a touch of green: a high efficiency air conditioning unit powered by a solar panel embedded in the roof. 

The new ambulance will also come with a power loader and power stretcher which significantly reduces the physical stress on EMS personnel loading and unloading patients into the back of the ambulance.
 Power loader demonstration

In addition AFD is requesting $91,600 for three more power loaders to retrofit the current fleet of ambulances.  Last year they were given approval to purchase five power stretchers.

Two new UHF/VHF portable radios at $7,000 each will allow command personnel to communicate with other agencies (Amherst police or any police and fire in Franklin County when assisting via mutual aid) at the scene of an incident.  The old radios are beyond their rated lifespans and are starting to break down.

The vital protective gear that separates bare skin from sizzling temperatures also needs to be replaced on a rotating basis, and this coming year that installment (20 sets of gear) will cost $40,000. 

A Federal mandate requires all single-walled underground storage tanks be removed by 2017.  The 8,000 gallon tank at North Station, used by AFD as well as other town departments -- Schools, Recreation, Library and Conservation -- needs to come out of the ground.

And that will cost $80,000.

Since the two pumps that dispense gas and diesel are also over 20 years old they will be replaced at the same time, for a cost of $20,000.

While not nearly as expensive as an ambulance or fire engine a 4WD pickup is still pretty costly at $35,000.  The utility vehicle will be used to plow North Station in winter and even to accompany  emergency vehicles during a major winter storm.  The old unit was a 1993 hand me down from the DPW that has now failed to pass inspection.  

When asked by JCPC Chair Kay Moran what he would do if her committee decided to cut funding for the vehicle Chief Nelson responded, only half-kidding, "punt."

Rounding out the requests is $20,000 in extra equipment for the new pumper arriving in August that allows it to act as a "Emergency First Responder."  Sort of turns a fire engine into a temporary ambulance, except it cannot transport the patient to the hospital.

But when things get busy and you need to get to a patient ASAP a Fire Engine can travel just as fast as an ambulance to at least deliver highly trained help who can stabilize the patient until an ambulance can arrive to transport to a hospital.

The Joint Capital Planning Committee seemed to look favorably at the AFD requests, but they do need to cut some items from department requests before sending their recommendations to Town Meeting.

Even then, Town Meeting can still fail to fund a single line item, although it doesn't happen often.

The hard part somewhere down the road, assuming town officials radar still works, will be the $12 million debt exclusion for the new South Amherst Fire Station. 


Anonymous said...

If the schools stopped over paying administrators and giving out huge settlements, then maybe the town might have a little extra money to deal with their problems.

Everyone likes to say how the Select Board has no control over the schools but the SC and SB members know each other. The SB needs to take a stand on the out of control budget of the schools.

God help the town if the population of school aged children starts to rise. It will be the end of what civility we have in government.

For those who don't understand the cost per pupil in Amherst is going up by about 6% to 7% every year and has for over 10 years. The total budget goes up by 2% a year. The difference is because the school aged population goes down each year, so over time they can cut staff or not replace ones that retire, which saves money.

The administration is not doing a good job bringing cost under control. Lots of people on town government know this is happening but do nothing to deal with it.

Walter Graff said...

Maria Geryk needs to go!!!!

Dr. Ed said...

God help the town if the population of school aged children starts to rise.

If the apartments in town currently rented by UM students someday aren't -- for any reason -- they will become Section 8 units and there will be school aged children in most of them

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, the voters voted against an override. That was primarily directed at the schools.

There is no precedent and there would be no purpose to the Select Board getting confrontational about the school budget, and administrators' salaries. That's the voters' job.

The voters can't expect someone else to bail them out. We have school committee autonomy in this state.

It's up to the voters, not select boards, to ride herd on school committees that don't perform their oversight function.

Anonymous said...

It's time for the yahoos who comment on this blog (not you, Larry) to get straight in their heads just how limited the powers of this Select Board (or any select board in Massachusetts) is.

You said you wanted "limited government". Our Select Board is limited government.

And, no, they don't all "know each other".

Anonymous said...

Many students will leave the existing older, mixed occupancy apartment complexes in favor of the newer modern, fun, party friendly student housing. This is a no brainer. Just speak with some of the students they will tell you, why live in a dump surrounded by section 8 families when you can enjoy an all college aged dominated space. And their families will pay for it mom and dad will spring for the extra bucks. You will see increased low income occupacny and a strain on the schools.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly why we need a mayor.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine a more soul-crushing, brain-cramping job than Mayor of Amherst? Who would run for it?

If you need a sense of what it would be like, try watching, say, one half-hour of a Regional School Committee Meeting on AmherstMedia, and take a deep long inhale of the cloud of bloviation that has settled over that governmental body.

Walter Graff said...

that's why the town needs a mayor to shake things up and get this moronic government to do something other than act like they are in a Louis the 15th play.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell from the comment where people stand on the issue but I wonder who the police got more calls for..the college students or that Echo Village before it was purchased? I heard that the amount of police and social service involvement was very high with limited improvement. I also heard that the new owners support section 8 housing and have properties elsewhere with affordable housing. I heard that the gang involvement there is diminished or gone now. How come people don't want to talk about imrovement for Amherst and only want to focus on the political correctness?

Anonymous said...

Anon who wrote, " I heard that the gang involvement there is diminished or gone now", and other(?) Anons who've written about Section 8 -

Did you hear this from James Cherewati or from one of the investors in Echo Gatehouse Partners LLC who are hidden behind that LLC's corporate veil?

Are you a hired gun for James Cherewati or for one of the LLC's hidden investors?

I don't recall reading any gang activity reports in the Bulletin's Police Report. (There have been such reports for the much larger Boulders and Southpoint apartment complexes.)

The Police Department website,, has a crime reports map that could be checked out. Also it would be better to telephone the Police Chief's office and ask, rather than relying on such hearsay or worse.

Anonymous said...

RE: Are you a hired gun for James Cherewati or for one of the LLC's hidden investors?

Wow, I wasn't even getting personal but you did which seems a little misplaced. I guess I am just asking objective questions to raise meaningful dialogue.

I was just trying to raise the point that there was a lot of police involvement there and since the change, there seems to be a lot less. It is a realistic question given the commentary made about college students and police involvement.

In terms of the gang involvement, I am not sure what makes it to the papers or not, but there was a lot going on over there so when it was mentioned, it made sense. If I am wrong, I apologies.

My bigger point is that we need to acknowledge the efforts by some in our community to make improvements and get off the politically correct bandwagon and bashing of individuals.

Anonymous said...


Tuesday Gazette story about Monday Select Board: Echo Village Apartment acquisition fails in Amherst, stalling Community Development Block Grant application

An effort to acquire Echo Village Apartments as 24 units of affordable housing has reached a roadblock after its owner rejected offers to buy the property.
And because that project is stalled, the town is unable to seek Community Development Block Grant money from the state to support various social services in the community, including $70,000 for operating the overnight homeless shelter beginning in November.

The board requested that he at least end any and all eviction proceedings against low-income residents who remain, to both stop the stress on families and to demonstrate good-faith intentions in negotiations, which are expected to continue despite the rejection.
Select Board member James Wald said this is an opportunity lost to support a fragile community. “I fail to see what was lacking in the deal,” Wald said.
Board member Diana Stein said Cherewatti would have earned more than the sale price. Though details of the transaction are not known, with the board holding an executive session to discuss strategy, O’Keeffe confirmed that Cherewatti would have made money.
“He would have been made whole and then some with the profit,” O’Keeffe said.


Anonymous said...

Note personal attack continues.
Cherwatti has the right to say no thank you, especially after the substantial public abuse he has taken since he bought the place.
Ask the local APD if their job isn't a little easier.
Ask the local social services if they have more time to focus on fewer families so they can make a difference.
Ask the local schools about the impact on their schools.
You present a nieve perspective about the implications of effecting change in an area that was grossly under served and out of control.
If this occurred in any of the neighboring cities, the communities would be expressing appreciation and not this backward Amherst is better than that way.