Police news: Heroin antidote policy, new officer hired, and seeking to form public safety building committee

by Beth Melo on July 17, 2014

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Southborough Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus spent a good chunk of time at the Board of Selectmen meeting this week. On the agenda, were the selection of a new police officer, requesting approval for a Narcan policy, and discussion of forming a public safety building committee.

Police Officer Hiring

In an unanimous decision, the board approved hiring the chief’s recommended candidate for police officer. Officer Patrick Smith is a third generation police officer who has been most recently working at UMass Boston. Paulhus said much of his decision in choosing between two good candidates was input from his department.

Narcan Policy

Citing the recent “explosion” of opiate use in the country, Paulhus sought approval for officers to administer Narcan. The board unanimously approved policy subject to town counsel review.

Paulhus explained that opiate addiction (e.g., heroin) used to be thought of as an urban problem. But over the past couple years “a whole other class of people” have become addicted. Since he has been town chief there have been two overdoses in town. And recently, Ashland police used Narcan to save the life of someone they found passed out in a car.

The chief told the board that the Governor has declared the problem a public health emergency. He plans to join with other Metrowest departments to take advantage of a grant providing Narcan for free to be used by police officers.

Paulhus further explained that in the past, responders had to wait for “rescuers” to administer a needle. Now officers who are first on the scene would be able to spray the Narcan same as they would an allergy nasal spray. The nasal spray would be carried with defribillators that officers already use to help in medical emergencies. 

He reassured the board of the low risk. He stated that they wouldn’t give it to just anyone found passed out. It would be used only when there was evidence or knowledge of probable opiate use. And if there is a misdiagnosie, there are no side effects.

His plan is to have a policy in place by August. The program would be overseen by a doctor and medical center, and include about an hour training per officer.

Public Safety Building Committee

Earlier in the evening, Town Administrator Mark Purple recommended the board appoint a Public Safety Building Committee. As they look to update the needs assessment, response time survey, etc. But worried that a future building committee would like them to look at things differently. Purple was hoping that by having a building committee help guide them on the information they want, they would move forward more efficiently.

There was concern from some board members about forming a committee prematurely. It was seen as a question of “the chicken and the egg”. They also pointed out that there isn’t a lot of interest in committee work in summer months.

In the end, they decided to have Purple make a more detailed recommendation about a board and charter at their August meeting. But they made clear that they are happy to start hearing from interested applicants for the committee now. (Click here for the official town volunteer form.)

(Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

1 Al Hamilton July 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Today, when all the costs are added up, we spend something on the order of $5,000,000 per year on public safety services (if you include benefits, retirement, equipment and building costs). If we were to build a public safety complex for the existing service mix it will cost the better part of $20,000,000. That will run about $1,000,000 per year and make it from a tax payers perspective one of the most expensive projects we will ever undertake. Unlike schools we will have to pay for it all.

I am afraid that forming a public safety complex committee is putting the cart before the horse. What ever building that is proposed will define public safety services for the better part of the next century. We really need to define the services we want and the way we want those services delivered BEFORE we think about how they will be housed.

We need to have a very detailed and public discussion about hard, uncomfortable issues that will not be easy. For example

1. Do we want to continue to offer a public ambulance service or do we want to go to a private system like many communities do.

2. What is the true cost of Fire, Ambulance and Police Services

3. Should we consider regionalizing some of our services.

4. Should we subcontract out our Fire Services to Marlborough or Framingham or Ashland (many areas of town would receive faster emergency services from these departments)

5. What are the standards of service we require.

Of course then there is the really big question. If we spend another million dollars a year how will that improve the level of service we get. Will the ambulance get to my house faster? Will our crime rates go down? Will my home be safer from fire? Those are the services we actually pay for.

The main arguments for hiring a strong TA and expanding the board was to free up the BOS to take on these big long term issues. I urge them to do this. Little else that is under their control will have the impact that these questions will. It will not be easy and it will take people out of their comfort zones but it should be done.

2 John Kendall July 17, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Al,
For the record, Chief John Mauro looked into the feasibility of contracting with Marlborough Fire……it was a no go from the get go. As for ambulance service, this subject has been hashed over repeatedly, with the end result being that it is cheaper for the taxpayers to continue with what we have. As far as private versus municipal, several municipalities have not renewed contracts with private services and have started with their own fire based services. Some of the reasons: consistency of service, adequate qualified staff.

3 Al Hamilton July 17, 2014 at 7:23 PM

John

In my years on advisory I never saw this sort of analysis. I do not believe that this sort of analysis should be done “Chief to Chief” I think a predictable result will ensue. I think this is the sort of thing that the Chair of the BOS should discuss with the Chair of the Framingham BOS (for example) where it is made clear that real money is on the table.

It may be that we decide that the system we have is the one we want but it is important to do the exercise to create a vision that will support a massively expensive building program.

It will take a 2/3 vote and a vote at the ballot to do this. If we can’t answer these questions in a very public way then this project should be opposed.

And finally, nobody has answered the really big question. How will spending an additional $1,000,000 per year improve the service.

We need solid, publicly reviewed and debated answers to these questions.

If we go through this process and the answer is that we need to build this edifice I will be the first to stand on the floor of town meeting in support. If not……

4 John Kendall July 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

As far as the current Public Safety buildings go, we know that the police station was formerly the Peter’s Annex, constructed in the earlier part of the 20th century. The fire station was built to replace the building that currently houses Southborough House of Pizza. The “new” fire station was built to house larger apparatus, provide more privacy, and to provide quarters to a couple of firefighters. Remember that the shell was built by professionals, while the bulk of the carpentry, plumbing, and heating was done by firefighters. Assabet Valley did electrical and air conditioning. This building was SUPPOSED to be adequate for the next 50 years. Plain and simple, it ain’t. There have been numerous water leaks over the years, the apparatus is a tight squeeze, crew quarters are not set up for different genders, and if you really look in the building, you can see where the volunteer work was done. While it has served the town well, it just doesn’t cut it anymore as a fire station. I have seen my taxes go up over the years for who really knows what. At least this would be visible to the public. I think it’s time to stand up and get this done. Talk is cheap. I’ll pony up my money for this anytime.

5 Frank Crowell July 28, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Sounds like we should have invested in a new fire station then a new fire truck or at least done the station before the truck.

6 concerned_resident July 28, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Hello John,

I respect your opinion but would challenge you on your logic. If we are to spend over $15 million, the decision to cripple us financially for the foreseeable future (limiting or eliminating other needs) our reasons should be more compelling than

1. ‘numerous water leaks’, ……………….. (fix them and replace the roof)
2. tight squeeze for apparatus, …………. (they do fit though don’t they?)
3. need for gender specific bathrooms, and (surely some degree of renovation can fix this issue)
4. spurious comments about the quality of ‘volunteer’ labor used to build the existing facility. (if it breaks fix it, don’t replace it)

(Note: as a comparison, Sharon MA new Police/Fire facility is estimated at $24.8 Million; above Al H. estimates our cost would be $20 million. if $20MM is the cost, that would be approximately

====> $5,700 per Southborough household <===

… assuming we foot the entire bill and commercial taxpayer $ is not tapped. That's a lot of $$ per

Yikes…. You know the old saying "If its not broke don't fix it". The corollary to that is "If it is broke, fix it", but don't necessarily tear it down and replace it with a thing that you cant afford…..

Me thinketh that some just want a shiny new facility cuz other communities are busting their budgets by doing so.

7 Al Hamilton July 29, 2014 at 7:43 AM

John

Thanks for the perspective. I agree that the building, like nearly all of our buildings, has not been properly maintained. I did an analysis a few years ago and arranged for the building capital maintenance fund. At the time I suggested that we should put roughly $250,000 in the fund each year to do capital maintenance (eg a new roof for the fire station). So far, we have never put more than $100,000 in the fund and often less. That is the reason why the police and fire stations are not in better condition, we consistently underfund the capital maintenance of our buildings. Taking care of what you have is less expensive in the long run than building new.

You have identified 3 specific needs

Proper facilities for female Firefighters/EMT’s, Addressing deferred maintenance, and a cozy fit for the apparatus. These are all important issues. They should be investigated in an open ended process (I am sure there are others). The investigation should be “What are our options for dealing with these issues” not “When we get the new facility this is how we will deal with those issues”.

This is a big ask from the taxpayers. Hard questions should be asked and investigated. If the answer in the end is we need a new fire station or a public safety building then so be it but if we don’t dig in and ask the hard questions then the voters should rightfully say no.

8 Metrowest99 July 17, 2014 at 6:32 PM

The thought of “subcontracting” emergency calls to other towns is pretty far fetched. I want Southborough firefighters responding to Southborough calls because they know the streets better then someone else coming in from another town- that’s costing time if it’s a fire or someone in a medical emergency. I am sure SFD response time is more than adequate to any part of the town for an emergency call. We don’t need to cheap out and leach off other towns to do calls for us because some people want to save money when we can well afford it. Also communities now are actually going from private to their own fire dept run ambulance. Going from a town run ambulance to a private is like going backwards. A huge step backwards. A town run fire ambulance generates income for the town. A private ambulance would make money for their own company and the town would not see any money from it. Its been hashed over like John said and its old news. Firefighters also have dual roles as paramedics as well as firefighting duties. I am proud of the public safety services we have and most importantly I feel safe knowing we have these services available if the need arises to utilize them. You never know when you might need them. Living near PD and FD I see them responding all the time at all hours. Its a nice feeling to have these services like I said and it exceeds my standards of service as I see it.

9 Al Hamilton July 19, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Metrowest

I am not advocating any particular position but I am advocating that the questions be asked and answered before we spend $1,000,000 per year not after.

There are significant parts of town that during much of the day fall outside the 10 min response time suggested by the National Fire Protection Association. I live on Pine Hill Road. There are 3 Stations (2 in Framingham and 1 in Marlborough) that are closer to my house than Southborough is. The same is true for the Southeast part of town and some of the north.

I said at the beginning this would be an uncomfortable exercise. I am not anti fire or police department but neither am I willing to just keep on doing the same thing we have always done just because we have an institution that has a proud past. $1,000,000 per year is a lot to ask from taxpayers. They should be treated with equal respect and assure that forking over these funds is the most cost effective way to deliver emergency services. Just asking taxpayers to open their check books “because” is not effective management or good policy.

Can you answer the big question? How will spending $1,000,000 per year improve our emergency services? Will the ambulance get to my house faster? Will my house be safer from fire? Will the crime rate go down? Those are the sorts of services I am happy to pay taxes for .

10 RB July 28, 2014 at 9:03 AM

Al my friend, you are slipping a bit. I usually agree with a vast majority of what you say in your posts, and your posts are generally well thought out and researched. However, you made a comment in your post that left me a little curious, so with the aid if Google (to find addresses) and Google Maps, I spent about 10 minutes and did a bit of research. Here is what I found:

The Marlboro fire station on Route 20 is 9 minutes and 4.2 miles from your house.
The Framingham station on Route 9 is 7 minutes and 3.2 miles from your house
The Framingham station in Nobscott is 9 minutes and 4.2 miles from your house
The Southboro station is 8 minutes and 3.4 miles from your house.

So your statement is only partially true – only one station (Framingham’s Route 9 station) is slightly closer to your home.

With respect to upgrading the facilities for police and fire, there is a big expenditure expected and it probably will not make you any safer, but these structures are part of the infrastructure of the town, – the police station originally designed and used as the high school annex, lacks adequate space for the demands of a modern police department and the entire facility is outdated. The fire station was designed and constructed when the department was primarily an on-call station with fewer full-time employees and lacking female living facilities. We spent millions and millions on schools (a large portion reimbursed by the state). The burning question is: do the new school buildings make the children any smarter? Probably not, but the infrastructure to house the schools is modernized and improved.

11 Al Hamilton July 29, 2014 at 7:29 AM

If my house catches on fire at 2AM then Southborough is probably the second fastest responder. If it happens during a working hours I think the other 2 will get there faster. Every time I think about this problem from a personal perspective I look at the Rt 30 causeway and think “no way is a fire truck getting through there quickly at rush hours.

If there was a free market in fire protection services and we could buy initial response service from the fire station of their choice I think a significant fraction of the residents of the town would make their own “who will get here faster” choice and buy from a different vendor. Of course this is only a fantasy (It is the way it used to be done though).

Yes, we spent millions on schools, and now we are building rich and teacher poor. I have been arguing for some time that we should close a school or at least do a serious study of how it might be done.

Yes, the police station was originally a school but we invested in re purposing the building (are you going to advocate we tear it down by the way?). A few years ago we upgraded the facility to better accommodate female officers. The 2 Chiefs offices are both much nicer than mine (I run a small high tech mfg company). The meeting rooms are nicer than mine. The facilities are generally nicer than our offices and mfg space.

So The big question still remains. How does spending a million dollars a year make me and the other residents of town better off? If we cannot answer that question the we should keep our own money in our own pockets. (By the way, I am happy to help examine this question, it is important.)

Asked another way, if the state forced us to raise an additional million in taxes how would you spend it? I would spend it on teachers, more hours for the public health nurse and building capital maintenance (which would include the fire and police stations).

12 RB July 30, 2014 at 7:42 AM

All three communities are faced with traffic issues throughout the day, so I am sure that Southboro is probably still second to get to your house considering Route 9 and other back road traffic congestion that exists in all of the communities.

Having traveled through various parts of the country I can say that in other areas outside of New England all services are provided, quite successfully I may add, on a county basis. Resources are located in locations that maximize benefits to residents. So, assuming this was the case in Massachusetts (where we abolished county government – go figure!) and there was no county line separating Southboro and Framingham, in the event of a fire, assault, medical or other emergency, help from one or more of the closest stations would automatically respond to your house. With GPS technology, the closest unit, whether it be Southboro, Framingham, Marlboro, State, etc. should be the one sent to your house!

What are the challenges to change to regional or county in Massachusetts? I am sure that you could provide more reasons than I, but the biggest is that so many people are parochial in New England – they don’t want to give up local control and/or see their tax dollars support services where another community may benefit more. Until we get out of this mindset, nothing will change.

Regarding the police station, I have been in various parts of the building a few times (on the right side of the law I may add for clarification purposes). If it can not be substantially renovated at a cost that does not exceed new construction, then it should be either demolished, or sold off to someone that wishes to spend the money to rehab it. We don’t need another Fayville Hall or South Union School (oh, wait, we already have that in the police station)!

If we had another million dollars, I would have to agree with you!

13 Flo Villeneuve July 18, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Please save the beautiful Burnette House it’s too beautiful to tear down

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