Chester Fire Association, Selectmen Discuss Roles

CHESTER – Representation from the newly configured Chester Fire Association met with the board of selectmen, after new association president Tom Ciccarello Jr. set up the meeting as one of his first moves since being elected earlier this year.

Ciccarello said the meeting was intended to be a personal introduction. He spoke about the desire to work with the selectmen on the goals of the association.

The new president explained that per the association bylaws, they are asked to hold elections every year. He also explained that Chief Rich Antoine, in attendance at the Thursday, Jan. 16 meeting, had sent a letter of resignation to the association in November, but the membership declined to accept it until a new president could be elected.

Ciccarello said the association had done a lot of good work in its many years and that he had big shoes to fill. He praised the chief for his eight years of service to the association.

Selectman Jack Cannon called the election a refreshing change. He pointed to the combination of established leadership from other association members (Mike Willinsky, Scott Newnan and Phil Gladu) and the opportunity for emerging leadership with Ciccarello.

“It’s what you need in a town like this,” said Cannon, noting that it was important to give people the chance to lead.

The focus of last week’s discussion was on two upcoming projects the association is working on, one to expand the fire station with a new bay and the other to upgrade the forestry tanker.

Because of some misconceptions by the selectmen, Ciccarello explained that the association is just the funding arm for these types of projects, and the town and the fire chief are the go-to people for the specifics.

An anonymous donor recently presented the association with funds to build the new bay. Antoine brought the matter before the selectmen last year, as previously reported in the Tri-Town Times, and received tentative approval depending on selectmen review of the plans. Those plans, Antoine said last week, are still being worked on.

Most of last week’s discussion centered on the forestry truck upgrade. Selectman Joe Castricone said this was the first time he had heard about the chassis replacement.

Ciccarello said that shocked him a bit, but he went into the specifics of what the association has been working on. He also said that because the association is a private group, it is not required to disclose everything to the selectmen.

Selectman Jack Cannon said it was not the first time he had heard of it. The Tri-Town Times published a story about the chassis replacement in September.

The early 1970s military truck, repurposed as a forestry truck, has become a liability for the department. Not only does its awkward handling and manual transmission limit its drivers, it routinely breaks down en route. But it’s a rare piece of equipment and valuable to Chester and surrounding towns, Ciccarello explained.

To some of chair Steph Landau’s more specific questions, deputy chief and association vice president Mike Willinsky explained that the association was the funding mechanism, and specific questions should be directed to the chief.

Antoine answered questions and also deferred some to the head of the committee on the truck, Ben Clark, who explained that a lot of research has gone into the project and answered selectmen questions.

Discussion occurred among the selectmen on the truck, who would own it, what should be done with the old truck, where the money would go from that sale, what the warranty on the rebuilt chassis would be, and how federal and state auctions work.

All the department’s trucks, whether purchased with association funds or not, are town owned. The department, association and town have long worked together to purchase trucks in this manner.
The selectmen eventually decided to take a vote to allow the association to sell the old tanker and use any funds to continue their work. Landau made the motion, which was approved unanimously.

On a suggestion by Willinsky, the board also formally approved the rebuilt tanker, as Willinsky stated that some of the comments by selectmen had him concerned that they would build the truck and find out later the board would not accept it.

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