May 20, 2020BARNSTEAD — An appointment with the Barnstead Fire Department and updates about the BCEP Solid Waste District dominated the board of selectmen meeting in Barnstead on May 12, which was livestreamed on YouTube.
Early in the meeting, Selectman Edward Tasker discussed the proposed schedule for opening the inside of BCEP solid waste facility in the first week of June, and said that the facility is already accepting tin, plastic and cardboard again. A problem that the facility is facing though, he said, was that "the public continues to be ornery" about some of the changes to the operations of the facility due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tasker said that BCEP staff have "requested a police presence" to prevent further conflicts between members of the public and the staff. Tasker asked the fellow board members if they would be open to authorizing a Barnstead police officer at the facility one day per week.
With Barnstead Police Chief Paul Poirier in attendance to the meeting, the board was able to get his perspective on the issue.
"…[F]or example, if we were to stop a car for a violation we saw here in Barnstead and it went over the line in Pittsfield, we would have the authority to arrest them and bring them back to Barnstead," Poirier said as an example. "Same thing with this detail. I wouldn't go over there because it's in Pittsfield, unless I spoke with the police chief and we had an agreement that we would be going over there. Of course, if there were details over there, Pittsfield would run those details. If they didn't have the bodies to fill those details, then they would reach out, just like any other detail, to query other police departments and ask those police departments if they want to go over there and work the details."
Selectman Rick Therrien asked Poirier for suggestions about how to prevent further issues from happening at the facility, and Poirier said that having officers stationed at BCEP for a short part of the day and then having the officers leave and come back would be possible operationally, and would spread the news of the police presence around the communities fast.
"People are going to go on social media, [and say] 'The police are at the dump, be careful,'" Poirier said.
Tasker said that he would reach out to BCEP to inquire about communicating to all four towns about the situation and sharing police detail responsibilities.
An appointment with Fire Chief Shawn Mulcahy, alongside Al Poulin, concluded the meeting. First, Mulcahy addressed day-to-day operations at the department with the necessary changes due to the pandemic.
"I'm answering 30 to 50 emails a day and returning messages and forwarding information seven days a week. It's crazy the amount of stuff that's going through our hands. It's kind of difficult…it's time-consuming to do everything remotely," he said.
Regarding expenses due to the changes caused by the pandemic, he said that "all our discretionary spending has pretty much come right to a screeching halt."
He said that the department is cleaning frequently, leaving uniforms at the department and washing them there instead of bringing them into the staff members' homes, and doing weekly inventories of the department's supply of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
"I've got enough to share, but could I do a school district meeting of 500 people? No," he said of the current supply.
Chairperson Lori Mahar asked about the amount of medical calls that the department has been receiving. Mulcahy said that a few weeks ago, medical calls were more frequent, but "right now it's just about where it should be," and the number of calls might increase again.
Poulin then reported on recent changes at the department. He said that when he recently met with each staff member – full-time and on-call – to hear their individual comments and concerns, a major concern was that the staff did not all have email accounts, and now each staff member has an email where they can receive announcements and important documents. He said that the staff members all worked together to strip the floors back to the original flooring, renovate the kitchen and update the office space. He said that there's now a "lobby" area in the office space, and all electronics are in one area. The department is currently reviewing policies to ensure that they are up to date, and some staff members are being given assignments based on their specialties.
"Each one of you is a valuable resource," he said of the fire department staff members.
Poulin also discussed future goals for the department. He said that the department had building inspector Fab Cusson come to the facility and approve the future installment of a bathroom upstairs. He said that the staff at the department have volunteered to do as much of the work as possible on the project once it occurs. Regarding training, Poulin said that "it's hard to get groups together," but "every day, we're training, learning something new."
Poulin and Mulcahy both expressed concern about the low number of regular on-call members. While right now the department is focusing on limiting exposure of staff who go on calls, Mulcahy said that, ideally, he would eventually like to have a dozen on-call members and some per diem staff.
At the end of the update, Vice Chairperson Diane Beijer added that the pay matrix, an ongoing project throughout the town departments, is a priority.
"We're really pleased with what we're hearing," Mahar added.
In addition to the primary conversations of the meeting, Selectman Gary Madden said that, with the board's permission, he would like to work with the Police Department to target certain areas of town as a continuation of the discussion about illegal dumping in town from the May 12 meeting. Madden also suggested posting on the town website with a warning about the consequences of illegal dumping, including the $250 fine for littering.
The sole public announcement was from Beijer, who said that during the next livestreamed board of selectmen meeting, the board will open a public input session wherein viewers can enter comments that will be relayed to the board so that they can respond in real-time.
The next board of selectmen meeting will be held on May 26 at 5 p.m., with the link to the livestream available on the homepage of barnstead.org.