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Selectmen OK chief's request to fill position; New alarm console will have to wait.

Byline: Karen Nugent

CLINTON - Fire Chief Richard J. Hart last night asked selectmen to consider replacing a retiring firefighter, install an up-to-date fire alarm system at the station, and set a date to honor tenants and firefighters who took part in a dramatic rescue during a house fire on Sterling Street last month.

The chief told the board that one of the town's 24 firefighters is leaving on a disability retirement, and he would like to send a new recruit to the state firefighting academy's January certification course.

He said he has not selected anyone for the post.

"I want to take a look at the whole picture and pick the best candidate," Chief Hart said.

The firefighters union contract requires a minimum of five men per shift, and six per shift are scheduled in case someone is out sick or on vacation. But if two are out, another firefighter must be called in on overtime. Chief Hart said keeping the 24-firefighter roster cuts down on overtime expenses.

The board voted unanimously to approve his request.

The department's complement, the chief said, has not increased since 1979, although there has been at least an 11 percent increase in calls for the last year or so, many for senior citizens.

Three men are required to go on ambulance calls. Chief Hart said there are often calls to help someone get up who has fallen, or to move someone on or off a toilet.

On a brighter note, he said, he has set Dec. 17 for a recognition ceremony for heroes of the Oct. 18 Sterling Street fire. One of them, David Kobus, a second-floor tenant, caught two young children dropped into his arms from the third floor. The ceremony will take place during the selectmen's meeting that night.

The chief's request for a new fire alarm console at the station, however, was put on hold.

The cost of the system, which would connect the fire station to automatic systems required in new businesses and municipal buildings, is estimated at around $60,000, Town Administrator Michael J. Ward said.

Selectmen said they would prefer to fund the system as part of the regular budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, or at least discuss it more, but Chief Hart said he does not want to wait that long.

Mr. Ward explained after the meeting that new businesses and buildings, including the new Parks and Recreation building on High Street and a new CVS on Main Street, are required to install automatic alarm systems that, as of now, have nothing to connect to at the station. Since an alarm is required, it is possible that business owners would be forced to install an old-style system that can communicate with the current system, and then have to buy a new one when the town switches over. Otherwise, they could be without fire protection for months.

Selectman Anthony M. Fiorentino said he favors

buying the new system right away.

"We need to address this - it's a public safety issue," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a liquor license transfer for the historic Strand Theatre on High Street to Tena M. Zapantis.

Mrs. Zapantis, who is a School Committee member, and her husband, former Selectman Constantino P. Zapantis, director of the Clinton Emergency Management Agency, are buying the movie theater, a longtime Clinton landmark, from Joanne Blodgett.

Mrs. Zapantis said she intends to keep the theater operation as is, with family movies and occasional comedy shows and sports broadcasts such as the Super Bowl. Beer, wine and food are sold during shows.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 20, 2008
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