, Newburyport, MA


November 7, 2013

Careful consideration needed on fire board

To the editor:

I am a member of the Board of Fire Engineers in the town of West Newbury. The opinions expressed in this letter are mine and mine alone, and do not, and are not intended to, reflect the opinions of any member of the B.O.F.E. or members of the West Newbury Fire Department, past or present.

I personally feel the need to take exception to statements in the article in the Oct. 21, Daily News in which Selectman Anderson states the way in which the fire chief is chosen may be a conflict of interest.

Apparently, Mr. Anderson is unfamiliar with the very law he’s trying to change. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 48: Section 45 Engineers states in part, “The Selectmen shall annually, in April, appoint a suitable number of engineers, for one year from the following May first.” M.G.L Chapter 48: Section 46 Organization of Engineers states, “They shall, immediately after such appointment, notify each of said engineers to meet at a time and place designated. At such meeting the engineers shall choose a chief engineer, a clerk and other necessary officers.” I fail to see how this could be a conflict of interest if it is state law.

As far as waiting for a monthly meeting to make a decision, all boards, elected or appointed, must deliberate at an open and posted meeting. One exception to this would be some type of an emergency situation (truck out of service), etc.

A simple phone call to each member and repairs can be made. I think Mr. Anderson and Mr. Knowles underestimate the makeup of the B.O.F.E. with their assumption that the board would not vote to eliminate its own position.

Just because we’ve had a board of fire engineers for almost 130 years doesn’t mean we should keep it. By the same token, just because we are only one of three towns still utilizing that format is no reason to adopt a strong chief law.

No matter which format is ultimately chosen, it must be done with best interest of the town and fire department in mind.

Robert Janes

West Newbury

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