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Paramedic certification, closure of beach dune on tap for Nov. 18 Special Town Meeting
By Carol Britton Meyer
October 17, 2019
At a special town meeting called by the Board of Selectmen for Monday, Nov. 18, Hull voters will consider two warrant articles related to a proposed change in the town's paramedic hiring bylaw and a re-vote of the May 2019 town meeting article pertaining to a proposed Beach Avenue dune construction project.
The Hull Times heard from Town Counsel James Lampke as we went to press that a judge recently ruled to deny the request for injunctive relief filed by attorney Robert Galvin on behalf of two Beach Avenue residents to stop the project.
Lampke said in an email that “the judge issued what I would call a very strong and supportive decision in favor of the town… substantially agreeing with the arguments made by the town.”
Articles for the warrant, including citizen petitions, will be accepted until Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m. At that time, the warrant for the special town meeting, scheduled to convene at Hull High School at 7 p.m., will close.
The first article relates to a request by Fire Chief Christopher Russo that the bylaw requiring the hiring of only those firefighters with paramedic certification be amended as soon as possible so as to create a broader pool of candidates, including EMTs without paramedic training, to fill a large number of departmental vacancies.
"Changing the bylaw will not change the level of service on our ambulances," Town Manager Philip Lemnios told the Advisory Board Wednesday.
"Even with the proposed bylaw change, residents will still receive the same level of care as is currently provided because there are sufficient staff members with paramedic certification in the department to staff our ambulance service," he emphasized. "There is a rotation between serving on the ambulance and acting in a firefighter's capacity."
Lemnios noted that Hull is the only community he knows of that requires 100 percent of its fire department staff to have paramedic certification.
This is not the first time the town has considered this issue; in 2018, for example, a similar proposal did not prevail at town meeting.
"The rationale behind this current article is pretty much the same," Lemnios said, "but the need for this change has only become more pronounced."
Russo said he lost 10 members of the fire department in the past 18 months due in part to resignations and retirements, and more vacancies are anticipated in the next several years.
The fire department is funded for 25 positions, but the current staffing level is far lower, with 14 paramedics and two EMTs. "Changing the by-law would allow more hiring flexibility," Russo said. "We have to get our staffing back up; [being under-staffed] affects morale."
The current town requirement to hire only candidates who hold a paramedic license has become more challenging over time, according to Russo, due in part to a greater demand for paramedics as more communities in eastern Massachusetts have moved to a paramedic level of ambulance service.
"I try to hire [firefighters/paramedics/EMTs] who are a good fit for the job and who want to be here,” he said.
Despite the lack of manpower, Russo said the current staff "is providing great service and has had some tremendous saves.” The Hull FireDepartment carries out approximately 1,000 to 1,200 transports a year.
The proposed change would give Russo the flexibility to hire new staff based on the overall needs of the department while maintaining its paramedic certification as well as accomplishing the other department missions, according to Lemnios.
The fire department will seek candidates who over time will become certified paramedics, the town manager stressed.
"We're working on a benefits package to help attract candidates in order to be more competitive," Russo said.
Two Advisory Board members were of the opinion that including what the town believes to be an appropriate ratio of paramedics to EMTs might make the article more acceptable to voters. But others contended that including such details in the warrant article would not be a wise move and could possibly tie the town's hands unintentionally at a future time.
Board member Dan Sullivan said he has "long endorsed this approach," referring to the proposed bylaw change. "We don't demand that everyone in a hospital functions as a doctor. There are many levels of support." The same principle applies to the paramedic/EMT issue, he pointed out.
"It's difficult to maintain paramedic status for an entire career," in part because of ongoing training requirements. "It's an arduous process," Russo said.
Jay Polito, another board member, suggested including a sunset clause in the proposed bylaw change that would allow the immediate staffing needs to be addressed "and to see how the bylaw change works" if supported by town meeting voters.
Beach Avenue dune article
The second article – to take another vote on the 2019 town meeting Beach Avenue article – is on the agenda at the request of Lampke. This relates to Attorney Galvin's seeking of a preliminary injunction against the town to prevent construction of the dune to close the gap between the two existing dunes across from several waterfront parcels (house numbers 131 to 145). There have been a number of court date delays, and a new date to hear the case has not yet been set.
Galvin also claims that the May town meeting voice vote – that the now-former town moderator John Silva determined at that time was in favor of authorizing but not requiring the selectmen to acquire by "gift, eminent domain or otherwise" a portion of, or interest in those parcels – is invalid because there was no actual vote count, just a voice vote, which he deems was too close to determine without a standing vote
More information is expected in the coming weeks, and the Advisory Committee will vote on these two and any other warrant articles that are filed before the deadline prior to the special town meeting.
The Advisory Board will meet again Oct. 21 and 28 to discuss the warrant articles further. Chairman David Clinton plans to invite representatives of the firefighters’ union to attend and to present their views.
Russo said he has had initial conversations with fire department staff "so there are no surprises. We've talked about this issue every year, and I think the collaboration is coming together. I think this would be a change for the good. My goal is to provide the best service possible to the public, so I want to be proactive and get ahead of this [staffing] problem."
If the bylaw change passes, there would be collective bargaining and regulatory processes to follow.
The last day to register to vote for the meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 29. Residents will receive their warrants by mail on Saturday, Nov. 9.
By Catherine Goldhammer
October 17, 2019
I walked through Endless Summer a few weeks ago. I walked quickly; the hullaballoo is wonderful and also more than I can take. But there were a few people I wanted to see, so I went. And I did see them and converse with them, and then I walked back out through the circus performers and their hoops and bowling pins, past the Coast Guard vehicle and the little train, through the music and the food and all the people.
My first conversation there was with a young man I like very much and enjoy talking with. We often seem to be of the same opinions on matters concerning the town. Somehow we got to talking about parking and in particular the parking at Pemberton, and I mentioned not being able to find a parking place, and he agreed. And then we realized that I meant a space in which to sit and ponder while gazing at Peddocks and at Boston and at the currents, and he meant a space from which to take the ferry. It was a small moment, and we didn’t talk about it further, but I remember walking away a little surprised that we didn’t think the same thing. (I am aware how not humble that sounds.)
What I want is for the Gut to be free of commuter parking. I want it to be the way it once was, not so long ago, a place where people came every day, all day, in and out, to sit and read the newspaper, or have their coffee, or talk with a friend, or fish, or watch the airplanes (yes, some came just for this), or look for starfish with their grandchildren, or just stare at those crazy currents while trying to solve all of life’s problems or even just one of them. I don’t know what the average stay was, but I would guess no more than a half an hour. That parking lot was always full of people coming and going and solving life’s problems.
I understand the comprehensive issues of the Pemberton area, not the least of which is that people need to park somewhere to go to work. But I still think that the Hull Gut parking area is a town treasure and that at least this one spot of Pemberton should be protected as such. Even in Hull, where there is water everywhere you look, there is nothing else like the Gut. There are still a few parking places reserved for the ponderers and the solvers and the novel-writers and newspaper readers. But not many. Not enough.
I had another conversation on this topic recently, with another person I like very much and like talking with. This was very enjoyable, if much shoutier. To give you an idea, there were stretches of time during which neither of us heard anything the other one said because we were both talking loudly simultaneously – for minutes.At one point one person said, “I am very humble,” and the other said, “You are the least humble person I know.” Neither of which is true, but all of it was funny. And then we finished that part of the conversation and talked about other things in an easygoing manner for some time.
These conversations reminded me how complicated Pemberton is, including the Gut parking area and its uses. And yet I want what I want. I suspect I won’t get it. Sometimes it is this: They see an orange and I see an apple, and neither of us is wrong.
Catherine Goldhammer is the author of “Still Life with Chickens: Starting over in a House by the Sea.” She lives and writes in Hull.
This article was originally published in the October 10, 2019 edition of the Hull Times.