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January 08. 2014 10:34PM

Fire department ventilator debate reveals divisive Derry council

DERRY — Town councilors reversed last month's vote on the acceptance of four portable ventilators for the Derry Fire Department after some heated discussion on Tuesday night.

Councilors had voted to reject the proposal during their Dec. 17 meeting.

The grant was part of the fiscal year 2008 federal Homeland Security award to the state Department of Health & Human Services for a critical care and supplemental oxygen program, Derry Fire Chief George Klauber said last month. The mechanical ventilators could be used by the town's Emergency Medical Services in place of hand-held units, Klauber said.

Before voting on the item last month, Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks made a motion to postpone the action until the Jan. 7 meeting. Fairbanks said the motion was based on a request by Councilor Neil Wetherbee to delay the vote since he wasn't able to attend that meeting.

That motion failed in a 3-3 tie, with Fairbanks, Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores, and Councilor Brad Benson voting for postponement.

The council then voted to reject acceptance of the grant in a 4-2 vote following a debate over whether that vote should have even been taken since Wetherbee couldn't attend that meeting.

During Tuesday night's meeting, Wetherbee attended and Benson made a motion to reconsider last month's vote on acceptance of the grant.That motion passed 4-3, with Dimmock, Cardon and Councilor Mark Osborne voting against it.Benson then made a motion to accept the ventilators as part of the grant.

Councilor Al Dimmock asked for a point of order, saying he didn't understand how Wetherbee could vote on reconsideration since he didn't attend the last meeting when the vote was held.

"Mr. Wetherbee voted for reconsideration," Dimmock said. "How can you reconsider something that you weren't there to consider in the first place?"

Fairbanks said he would have to check the town charter but he wasn't aware of any requirement where a councilor couldn't vote during a meeting.

Wetherbee responded, saying: "As long as I sit on this council, I'm eligible to vote. And I sit on this council much to your chagrin, Al."

Cardon said he voted on the item at the last meeting since it appeared on the agenda.

"When I saw it Neil, when I see it on the agenda, I vote on it," Cardon said.

Wetherbee responded, saying "If you want to take a vote when I'm not here, have the nerve to say it to my face: 'We are going to take this vote whether you are here or not. We don't care whether you are here or not."'

Cardon said Wetherbee was reading too much into the decision.

Councilors then voted, 4-3, to accept the ventilators as part of the grant.


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