HAVERHILL — City Council members voted Tuesday night to take $500,000 from the city’s $11.5 million in surplus funds to spend on repairs to the aging Water Street fire station with roof and window fixes first on the list.
As members of the fire department—including Local 1011 Union President Timothy Carroll—looked on, councilors heard how outdated equipment has impacted the community. Amesbury Road resident Joy Smith spoke during the public participation session about how she worries as a type 1 diabetic that crews may not be able to reach her in an emergency since she lives in Rocks Village.
Staffing, Smith says, is also a concern.
“Every time at budget time I heard, ‘more police, more police.’ I never heard ‘more firefighters.’ We need adequate staffing and equipment. We have a huge building going up downtown,” she said, referring to developer Salvatore Lupoli’s 10-story mixed-use project opening at 192 Merrimack St. “Do we have a truck that could put out a fire if one were to start there?”
Sympathetic to Smith’s concerns, councilors vowed to look “comprehensively” at all stations to see where improvements could be made. Councilor Timothy Jordan called Tuesday night’s $500,000 appropriation a “good start,” but said more must be done.
“Beyond just fixing up the buildings, we have to look at everything comprehensively: Should we be moving stations so we have a better response time to outlying areas of the city? Do we have to have more staffing, as has been recommended by the union? All of this has to be looked at.”
Council Vice President Thomas Sullivan suggested updating a 2011-2012 study done by then-Fire Chief Jack Parow to address 2019 concerns such as infrastructure, equipment and staffing levels, for example.
As repairs are made to the Water Street stations and other city buildings, Councilor Colin LePage requested that monthly updates be provided to the public.