The Stowe Fire Department has a new fire chief, and that fire chief is getting a new town-owned vehicle.
On Monday, the select board approved spending up to $60,000 for a new vehicle for chief Kyle Walker to use for his daily commute. Since he’s always on call, it makes sense for him to have a vehicle that’s decked out with all the flashing lights and sirens, tech and emergency items needed for an emergency call rather than have to head to the fire station every time the tone goes off.
There’s a reason firefighters, EMS and cops are called first responders. Every minute counts, so it’s better to roll up prepared.
“It’s just taken a toll on my car and I don’t have many other options, other than driving a 50,000-pound fire truck around town all the time, which doesn’t make sense,” he told the board.
Town Manager Charles Safford said the town has a couple of police vehicles past their prime for law enforcement purposes that heads of departments like parks and recreation and public works use, but they drive their personal vehicles to and from work. The highway foreman has a town vehicle, but “he comes in at all hours of the night,” Safford said.
Safford said the town knows the mileage on its vehicles, and the town has a fuel account for those vehicles. He said he does “not draw a hard line in the sand” regarding mileage; if the chief has to go to a meeting in Montpelier and has to come back for an emergency, so be it.
Select board member Neil Van Dyke, who works as the head search and rescue coordinator for the Vermont Department of Public Safety in his day job, said it would be advisable for the town to craft policy about use of town vehicles — he said “the optics are not very good” if the fire chief were to pull into a pub in a town vehicle. Safford said he’ll work on a policy.
Said Walker, “I have no intention of taking a town vehicle out to dinner.”
Curbing drivers’ enthusiasm
In a different kind of car talk Monday, the select board discussed the new curb extensions, or “bulb outs,” that now accompany the crosswalks and street intersections in the village.
Although they’ve been touted as safer for pedestrians who don’t have to crane their necks past parked cars to check for oncoming traffic, bus and truck drivers have complained that they have to swing their rigs far too wide when turning from School or Park streets onto Main Street.
Public works director Harry Shepard said the curb extensions are designed so that larger vehicles can roll right up and over them, much like the aprons in the middle of road roundabouts. But, he said, the town needs to make it more obvious, and make the curbs “more mountable,” by sloping them more to the road level, so it doesn’t look like a sharp vertical slab of granite not conducive to driving over.
Board chair Willie Noyes asked if the highway crew was worried about plowing this winter.
Shepard said road foreman Steve Bonneau “is not losing sleep at night” over it.
Out to pasture
Finally, the town authorized putting a gate on McCall Pasture Road, a Class 4 trail and one of the two town roads into the newly conserved Brownsville-Story State Forest.
State forester Brad Greenough asked the town to let the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation do periodic maintenance to stabilize the road, such as ditching and culvert work.
He said a gate would prevent the road from getting torn up in sensitive times of the year.