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December 25. 2013 10:40PM

Derry council has heated fire grant debate

DERRY—After some heated discussion, town councilors earlier this month not to accept a grant through the state that would have provided the Derry Fire Department with four portable ventilators.

Councilors voted 2-4 not to accept the grant, with Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks, and Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores casting the two affirmative votes.

The Department of Health & Human Services grant was for a critical care and supplemental oxygen program, said Derry Fire Chief George Clauber. The mechanical ventilators could be used by the town's Emergency Medical Services in place of hand- held units, Clauber said.

If councilors agreed to accept the grant, Clauber said the ventilators would be used by EMS personnel to "help improve clinical outcomes" during patient transport and to enhance the community's surge capacity during large- scale emergencies. The cost of the program would run about $1,250 per year, Clauber said. Fire administrators had calculated the cost based on 25 prior transports of advanced life support patients in the last 12 months.

Councilor Al Dimmock said he had concerns about the annual cost of the ventilators and the impact on taxpayers.

"I'm looking to see that the taxpayers don't get hit with something because of what we are doing here," he said.

Before voting on the item, Fairbanks made a motion to postpone the action until Jan. 7. Fairbanks said the motion was based on a request by Councilor Neil Wetherbee to delay the vote since he wasn't able to attend Tuesday night's meeting. That motion failed in a 3-3 tie, with Katsakiores, Fairbanks and Councilor Brad Benson voting for postponement.

After the motion failed, Benson said he thought the council had discussed, and was in agreement with, honoring Wetherbee's request. The council should have delayed the vote until Wetherbee could attend, he said.

"Isn't this just common courtesy folks. I mean, what is this?" he asked.

Councilor Mark Osborne responded, saying, "This is on the agenda."

Fairbanks said the reason he put the item on the agenda was to have the public hearing and then the council could vote on postponement.Councilor Thomas Cardon said he thought the item should still be voted on and shouldn't have been left off just because Wetherbee couldn't attend.

"I can't imagine myself calling you up and asking you to change an agenda item because I'm not going to make it to a meeting, " Cardon said.

Fairbanks said he tried to make the process as fair as he could for each councilor.

"But it's failed, so we'll move on," Fairbanks said.


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