Hopkinton and Ashland held public meetings in each town to talk about a possible merger of the towns Fire Departments. Hopkinton Fire Chief Ken Clark mentioned the potential merger has been talked about since 2003.Throughout the last 12 years or so, studies on budget, needs, equipment, personnel and facility needs have been done in both towns. Both departments have a similar staffing structure, Hopkinton features 5 administrative staff members and 4 duty groups which feature 5 Fire Fighters. Overall Hopkinton features 16 responders and a 21 member staff compared to Ashland's 3 administrative staff, 16 responders and overall 19 member staff.
Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo talked about reasons the merger is a possibility; "The combined capital plan would allow the communities to use greater efficiency when purchasing new apparatus. This practice is already in place, for example, there is equipment that Ashland purchased and because of that reason there is no reason for Hopkinton to purchase." An example of equipment Hopkinton uses is Ashland's ladder truck.
Hopkinton's Pat O' Brien expressed disagreement with the proposed plan at the Hopkinton meeting stating concern that in certain areas such as Woodville it could take more time to get an Ashland ambulance than a Westborough ambulance. Former Ashland Firefighter Izzy Assencoa also was in disagreement with the proposed plan; "I think both towns should start taking care of their own town, we're fine in Ashland.. We need more guys.. My ladder truck in Ashland comes here all the time, I know it's mutual aid, that's the way it is.. I'm paying for that ladder, I think Hopkinton should get their own ladder."
Hopkinton Selectmen John Mosher closed out the public meeting with the reminder that the merger is only a possibility for both towns and public input is encouraged. "We are looking for creative ways to meet the explosive demands that both towns are experiencing, and I think anyone driving through both towns will see some of the unique demands particularly coming up on the border of the two towns...this merger is an attempt that has the roots and operational demands and has been promoted thus far by both chiefs and we'll continue to take public input and both Boards of Selectmen will consider that and we'll move forward ."
If the plan proceeds Selectmen in both towns are expected to decide if they should seek approval for a town meeting and develop a capital plan sometime during the summer. If the plan ends up passing in both towns, the cross-town fire department is expected to be in full operation by July 1st, 2016.
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