Derry Fire Chief Visits Chester Selectmen on Ambulance Service

CHESTER – The board of selectmen and the fire chiefs of both Chester and Derry discussed the future of cooperation for ambulance service between the two towns at the board’s meeting Sept. 26.
Derry has handled ambulance service for Chester since the 1970s, but with recent changes to Chester’s department, including new equipment and better training, members of the department and the selectmen have agreed to look into the possibility of Chester handling its own service.

As previously reported by the Tri-Town Times, the Chester fire department has done preliminary investigations into the matter and many are confident that they could handle the workload. Earlier this year the selectmen agreed to set up a broader committee to investigate the matter, but that has yet to be organized.
Hearing about the investigation through the news, Derry fire chief George Klauber contacted a couple of Chester selectmen to explain that he wanted both towns to be included in the discussions and to offer his know-how. Klauber was clear that he did not want to hinder Chester’s growth or persuade the town not to investigate the matter, but said that from his department’s and town’s perspective, it was important for there to be an open dialogue. Long-term planning was key to both departments, he said.
Both Klauber and members of the selectmen Jack Cannon and Steph Landau agreed that the contract that currently governs the ambulance service was a good, fair document.
Klauber added that he didn’t want to be part of the town’s committee on the issue, but would like to support the process in any way he could. He emphasized that any such move by the town, or any town in the area, should be well thought out, as all communities supported each other through mutual aid.
“We’re a regional community and we need to be considerate of that,” said Klauber.
Cannon and Landau assured the chief that the investigations were in their infancy, and no definite plans were made.
Cannon said he thinks the relationship between the two communities is valuable. He added that he would also seek open lines of communication and urged people not to believe everything they hear on the matter, as there are many voices speaking on the issue that do not necessarily support the Chester fire department.
Chester Fire Chief Rich Antoine also noted that nothing was set in stone and that the process was just beginning. Antoine has repeatedly stated that he is neutral on the idea of Chester’s taking on an ambulance service. He was clear at last week’s meeting that the ad hoc committee of fire department members reviewing the matter had been disbanded and any further work was relying on selectman Joe Castricone and his plans to set up an investigative commission.
Antoine added that there was a lot of noise, gossip and rumors going on, but to get the correct information, one needed to go to the source.
The discussion was then taken over by selectman Rich LeBlanc’s questioning of portions of the ambulance contract the board of selectmen signed and approved earlier this year with Derry.
After several minutes, Cannon cut off LeBlanc, saying he was belaboring an issue and he would be happy to review the public document with LeBlanc at another time to help answer his questions.
Though Castricone suggested the meeting be in non-public and he and Landau sought a state law that would justify having the discussion kept secret from the public, Cannon said there was no need for privacy, and Klauber agreed.

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