NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 9, 2013

Selectmen place 'strong chief' article on fall warrant

WEST NEWBURY — The question of how best to run the town’s call fire department is heating up again just in time for a Special Town Meeting next month.

During a review of a draft of the special warrant at the board’s regular Monday night session, Selectman Joe Anderson proposed including an article asking voters to adopt the state’s “strong chief” law, a statute that provides for the restructuring of the fire department’s leadership from a Board of Fire Engineers format to one that is run solely by a fire chief.

Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles Jr. agreed with Anderson that the request should be included on the warrant for the Nov. 4 Special Town Meeting. However, their colleague, Glenn Kemper — who had recently spoken against bringing it to Town Meeting voters this fall — was not present for the vote.

The board will finalize the articles appearing on the special warrant at a meeting with the town moderator and Finance Committee on Oct. 15. Selectmen’s meeting are typically held at 7 p.m. in the First Floor Hearing Room of the 1910 Town Office Building.

A similar suggestion made by Knowles at a meeting last month was rejected by Kemper, who said he preferred to let the Board of Fire Engineers look into the matter further before bring it to Town Meeting floor. At the time, Anderson agreed with Kemper.

But after a couple weeks’ reflection, Anderson said on Monday that he had changed his mind. While he regretted Kemper wasn’t present to weigh in with his thoughts on the topic, Anderson felt the pending deadline to close the warrant made it necessary for him to make a motion that night to add it to the agenda for the November Town Meeting.

He had concluded that because it remained unclear what action — if any — the fire engineers were planning to take in this regard, he saw no reason to wait six more months just to take it up at the Annual Town Meeting in April.

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