1. #26
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    Here's an editorial.

    Big grant is big pain for small minds
    Letters
    Article Launched: 02/12/2007 11:38:41 AM EST


    Monday, February 12
    To the editor:
    I am a firefighter/EMT for the Cheshire Volunteer Fire Department and a captain firefighter/EMT for the Savoy Volunteer Fire Department, and I have been involved in the SAFER grant from the beginning.

    To start, I would like to share with you my goals when I initiated acquiring this grant. Due to the problems fire departments face with volunteerism (on call 24/7, extensive training, etc.), without any benefits except the service to the community, we have a problem recruiting new members. How do we attract new members? How do we keep the valuable members we have? Answer: SAFER grant.

    On Feb. 7, you wrote an article, "Big grant is big pain for small town." I would like to thank you for your unbiased titling of this article. This is what inspired my correspondence that I am entitling, "Big grant is big pain for small minds."

    I am in awe that after all the articles and time the Transcript and the Cheshire Selectmen have put into this, they still have failed to capture the truth and scope of this grant. This grant is not about billboards and coordinators' fees, it is much more than that, and it is shameful that both a reputable newspaper and the representatives of an entire town cannot inform the public and explore the opportunities that this grant holds fully before putting it to biased scrutiny.

    On Feb. 8, you published an article, "Cheshire hopes dim for second firefighting grant," in which you quoted Selectmen Chairwoman Carol Fransesconi as saying, "At the end of the four years, the firemen are not going to have any visible equipment. They're not going to have a truck, they're not going to have Scott Air Paks. What they're going to have is possibly more firefighters and possible education for people wanting to study fire science in college."

    I see the point apparently education is not considered an asset or benefit anymore.

    Let's discuss the scope of the Cheshire-Savoy SAFER grant. The grant consists of 10 categories: 1. Marketing; 2. Staffing needs; 3. Production and Web creation; 4. Loss of wages; 5. Travel for training; 6. Entry-level physical examinations; 7. College tuition program; 8. Junior in-school program; 9. Uniform Incentive Program; 10. Coordinators' fees.

    The visible equipment the two departments will receive are as follows: a laptop computer for each department, an LCD projector for each department both to use for fire prevention and the education programs a "Freddie The Fire Truck" robot for each department to assist in a much-needed public safety outreach and fire prevention program, software for training current members, junior firefighters, our senior citizens and the children of the community; Class A, Class B uniforms (head to toe) and winter jackets for every member.

    The grant also allows each town to give a scholarship of $9,000 per year for the next four years to a graduating junior firefighter to use in a study of choice, not necessarily fire science, like you've been told. The grant also covers loss of wages for any member due to training or continuing education. With rise in gas prices, mileage is also covered when responding to community emergencies.

    So what do we have? A highly trained, highly educated firefighter involved in public safety and fire prevention, dressed in a nice uniform and get this, a VOLUNTEER supported by the community.

    These are the people I want to enter a burning building with trained and educated. Being a husband and a father of four, I need to return home from every call, so please tell me that I and my fellow firefighters deserve this.

    The current practicing theory that the Cheshire Selectman have of "sign here; congratulations you're a firefighter" does not work. It is dangerous and should not be permitted or accepted by the community.

    In addition to an educated fire department, the town has overlooked that we will have a more educated, safer community from the level of our children to our seniors. It would be naive to continue to think that because we are a rural area we can ignore the need to develop our skills and knowledge to meet the possible hazards that face all towns in this day and age.

    Last but not least, I would like to address the unprofessional comments of Selectman Paul Astorino. Throughout this grant process, he has been both pessimistic and condescending toward the fire department, the hired grant writer, the fire chiefs and the idea of creating a better department.

    I do agree we need to explore completely the demands to the town, if any, and the benefits to the town and the opportunity it may open for future grants when the town demonstrates its ability to unify and utilize this grant to its full potential. Last week he (Astorino) "quoted" words from Senator Kerry's office that were inaccurate. If you want to see the town lose its chances for future grants, allow this continued misinformation and public banter to replace true cooperation and exploration for a common goal.

    Mr. Astorino also stated that "we cannot run fast and loose with a say so," but in his next breath he does so with his unsubstantiated words regarding Senator Kerry's office this past week.

    Grants are presented to departments that show the need for those grants. In the Cheshire Fire Department, our need for air packs is high, and our need for an EMS truck is extremely high, but that doesn't mean our need for firefighters to wear the air packs or the EMTs to respond for medical calls isn't also high.

    A department that shows a need for air packs and an EMS truck as its only needs is a stagnant, short-sighted and unprepared department. Every department should be applying for every grant that it is eligible for, every year.

    My goal: a unified fire department that is highly trained in all aspects of public safety, (fire prevention, EMS, haz-mat, fire suppression, community service) that is supported by its town and its officials, as our goals are one and the same: the safety of our community. And we are willing to leave our families and put our lives on the line for this same community.

    Corey McGrath

    Cheshire

    Feb. 11

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    Very nice and level-headed response. Hopefully people from the area read it and comprehend it.

  3. #28
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    The latest on the SAFER grant for Chesire.

    Cheshire dismisses grant bill
    By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript
    Article Launched: 04/12/2007 01:39:46 PM EDT


    Thursday, April 12
    CHESHIRE Grant writer Samuel Doncel has sent the town a $33,000 bill for penning a federal grant application but the Selectmen say they're not paying.
    "There is no contract between the Board of Selectmen and Mr. Doncel for any payment so no payment will be forthcoming," Chairwoman Carol Francesconi said at Tuesday night's meeting.

    $666,000 grant

    Doncel, who hails from Wallkill, N.Y., was the author of a $666,000 federal grant the town received in January for the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. The Selectmen say they did not authorize him to write that grant, but did for a failed $175,000 grant for a much-needed rescue truck.

    In his letter to the Selectmen, Doncel thanks them for the opportunity to work with the town and asks if he will have a role in future grant applications. He also claims to have a signed contract with Fire Chief George Sweet to receive 10 percent of the grant. The fee would be divided between Cheshire and Savoy, which is listed in the grant but is not the primary town. Each town's share would be $33,298 or, if paid within 30 days, $29,969 each with a 10 percent deduction.

    No contract

    Town

    Administrator Mark Webber said Sweet told him he did not recall signing any contract with Doncel. Sweet was not at the meeting.
    "I don't know what contract (Doncel) claims he has because I don't have a copy," Webber said. "And it wouldn't matter if he did because the Selectmen are the only authorized signatories in the town."

    During the meeting, the Selectmen called the Savoy Town Hall, where the Savoy Selectmen had just finished their regular meeting. Francesconi spoke with Chairman Joseph Bettis to see if Savoy had received a similar bill.

    "Joe said his board did not have a signed contract with Mr. Doncel either and he has not seen a bill yet," Francesconi said.

    Administrator's job

    Doncel had earlier offered to waive his fee if he were named the grant's administrator a job that comes with a $90,000 salary plus travel expenses for the duration of the four-year grant. The Selectmen refused to hand the position to him because, according to state law, they said position had to be put out to public bid. So far, the town has not received any applications for the position, which are due April 24, but have received four serious inquiries.

    Doncel, in his letter, said he's no longer available to be the administrator, but offers the towns a deferred payment plan on the bill.

    The Selectmen decided to refer any further contact with Doncel to Town Counsel Edmund St. John. Board members said they would not be concerned if the matter ends up in court because even that would likely cost less than his fee. Webber said the town doesn't foresee a court battle.

    "We never anticipate a fight," he said. "We just fight them as they come."

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