Board of Selectmen Discuss Marijuana Dispensaries and Fire Department Staffing
Marijuana Dispensaries and securing public safety were among the main issues discussed on Thursday.
In November the Commonwealth became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana. But the Board of Selectmen believes that the Jan. 1 deadline is too soon for the town to determine zoning procedures and regulations for dispensaries.
"The town of Walpole suggests we submit a letter to the Senate to file for an extension for the implementation of the law," Selectman Jim MacDonald said. "And we need to ask what is a reasonable time."
The Selectmen want to postpone the implementation so they can also have a special Town Meeting about the regulations.
After discussion, the Board approved the motion to send a letter to the Senate to delay the implementation of the zoning laws.
Another issue that was brought up, but was not on the agenda, was the staffing issue at the Fire Department.
Town Administrator, William Keegan, gave his report about procedures that would involve shutting down an engine when the number of personnel falls below the required 11. But Selectman Jim MacDonald was disappointed with the decision.
"I think that the union knew about this before we did," Selectman MacDonald said. "I'm disappointed that this wasn't brought to our attention."
The Board was aware that the Town Administrator was talking with the Department, and they acknowledged the fact that something needed to be done about the overtime issue. But they were surprised that something was being implemented so soon.
"I make no apologies for maintaining three engines, knowing what potentially can happen," Selectman Jim MacDonald said. "And it doesn't matter if it's the holiday season, even with two engines. The manpower we have on our trucks are three and in other towns they have four. But through negotiations we decided that was enough. I would just urge you to fully staff the department, and we realize we may have to cut some other way."
Selectman Jim MacDonald is hoping that the five candidates for Dedham Fire are admitted into the academy, and that those who are off due to injuries are able to return as soon as possible.
"I'm hoping we can maintain the level of service," he said.
But Vice Chairman Mike Butler and Selectman Paul Reynolds reminded the Board that the town still has the responsibility to be fiscally responsible.
"We all agreed that fiscal year '14 is going to be tighter. State aid is being cut and I feel sometimes that I'm bringing a black cloud, but we also thought that we would be out of the woods by now," the Vice Chairman said. "And we're not out of the woods yet. So what happens is that we are in the position to make tough decisions."
Selectman Paul Reynolds felt that the reason why this is becoming a serious issue is because of the emotions that are attached to the idea of public safety.
"We are all committed to public safety, but we also are talking about the pressures of taxes," Selectman Reynolds said. "We are always watching the tax build coming higher and higher and higher. Because [when] someone taps my shoulder and asks how can we afford millions of dollars in overtime... [I think about] when my niece was saved by Dedham Fire... I just think about, is my niece's life worth a million dollars? And that's why there are so many emotions surrounding this."
The Board of Selectmen agreed that the vacancies need to be filled as soon as possible in order to restore the level of public service Dedham needs.