Efficiency study examines three local fire departments

The Bellows Falls Fire Department building. Photo provided by Joe Milliken

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – A first-ever efficiency study of three local fire departments – Bellows Falls, Rockingham, and Saxtons River – is currently being conducted to evaluate such aspects of the facilities as location, equipment, training, response time, and how the town and village can better maintain fire services moving forward.

The study is being conducted by AP Triton LLC, a Wyoming-based firm which is also conducting a municipal ambulance service study for the Town of Brattleboro, as well as recently completing a fire study for Town of Stowe, Vt.

“The idea for the study grew out of discussions at the fire equipment committee and ultimately the tri-board meetings as we reviewed future equipment replacement costs,” Bellows Falls municipal manager Scott Pickup said in a recent interview. “The scope then grew to include facilities, operations, training, and future needs for the community.

The process was originally estimated to cost $30,000, however, an additional $5,000 increase was unanimously approved by the Bellows Falls Village Trustees in a recent board meeting, bringing the total cost of the study to $52,000. The Town of Rockingham has now contributed $20,000 to the cost of the study.

“The overall costs increased as we developed a more comprehensive scope,” Pickup added, “but we are hopeful that the study and the recommendations will act as an additional tool for the elected officials to invest wisely in the fire services.”

The original concept of conducting the efficiency study came about when the Saxtons River Village Trustees were considering building a new fire station to support the village’s small department. That is when it was decided to create a joint effort in conjunction with the Town of Rockingham and the Village of Bellows Falls. Bellows Falls also received and contributed a $15,000 U. S. Department of Agriculture grant to help with the costs of the project.

In other local fire department news, the Bellows Falls Fire Department recently completed some upgrades, including additional parking and a new access door on the south end of the building. “We also replaced rotted trim boards and some gutters around the perimeter of the building,” Bellows Falls Fire Chief Shaun McGinnis said in a recent interview.

“On the police department side of the building, some excavating was done along the foundation, the wall was sealed, and the fill sloped away from the building to help prevent water from seeping into the basement. We also had additional snow breaks added to the roof to prevent excessive snow from dumping into the parking lot, and we are also continuing to work with the State of Vermont in order to get our elevator functioning properly, as to re-open our third floor to the public,” McGinnis added.

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