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Coventry Weighs Cost of Fire Dept.

July 11, 2012

Pedro Grondin talks to the Coventry Select Board about the town starting its own fire department. Photo by Christopher Roy

COVENTRY – Resident Pedro Grondin met with the select board Tuesday evening in an attempt to get Coventry to start its own fire department.
Last month, select board chair Mike Marcotte and selectman Brad Maxwell met with the Newport City Council to see if there is interest in getting in a contract for fire coverage. As it is now, Coventry pays per call. A contract would mean Coventry pays a flat fee, which would make budgeting easier for fire coverage.
After a brief discussion, the Newport City Council gave the okay for representatives to start discussions. 
Fire departments from Newport City, Newport Center, Irasburg, and Orleans currently provide fire coverage in Coventry. The closest department to the call is the one that responds first. That department decides what, if any, mutual aid from surrounding communities it needs. 
Coventry pays for each firefighter and piece of apparatus that responds to the scene. Even if it signs a contract with Newport City, Coventry would not belong to the International Mutual Aid.
“You won’t be a mutual aid member, because we don’t have anything to offer mutual aid,” said Grondin, an assistant fire chief in Newport City. “The other towns are meeting Friday. If you sign a contract with Newport, they want the same thing.”
Coventry, if it wanted to be part of the mutual aid system, would need its own firefighting equipment and personnel to fight fires in other towns. While nothing is in writing, Coventry would need at least 10 firefighters, a tanker, a pumper and a radio system.
“We can’t roll up with a pick-up truck with three pails, saying we’re going to throw water at the fire,” said Grondin. “I wouldn’t allow us to  try to belong to mutual aid without substantial equipment.”
Westmore started with one truck, five firefighters and some space in the town garage and became part of the mutual aid system, Grondin said.
Grondin said he has already looked at used fire trucks online, but it's hard to deal with someone selling a truck when he is only window shopping. Grondin also spoke about a fire station and a radio system.
“I don’t care if we have used trucks, used hoses, used turnout gear and used air packs,” said Grondin. But he's seen too many towns use old radios and there was nothing but problems.
Mike Marcotte asked Grondin to work with town clerk and treasurer Cindy Diaz to come up with start-up costs and a yearly budget. 
Everything, besides a fire station and radio system, could be in place within a month, Grondin said. Because of new federal standards, it would take six months to more than two years to obtain a radio license from the Federal Communications Commission. 
It might be worth applying for a license now, in case it is needed down the road, Marcotte said.

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