Lee fire commissioners to tighten cell-phone policy

Dave Gymburch
Staff writer
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Posted 4/20/19

TOWN OF LEE — A tightening of the Lee Center Volunteer Fire Department’s cell-phone policy involving photos, and upcoming repairs to put the department’s siren back in service, are being …

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Lee fire commissioners to tighten cell-phone policy

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TOWN OF LEE — A tightening of the Lee Center Volunteer Fire Department’s cell-phone policy involving photos, and upcoming repairs to put the department’s siren back in service, are being addressed by the town Board of Fire Commissioners.

The cell-phone policy is being reviewed after some photos of emergency-response scenes in a slide show at the department’s recent officer installation banquet made some attendees uncomfortable, board Chairman Patrick Hetherington said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the siren on top of the town Highway Department garage in Lee Center has been removed to be evaluated for repairs, said fire department President William Baker, who also is town highway superintendent. It has been out of commission for about six months, said Hetherington.

Those were among topics at the board’s meeting this month, along with an up-front payment for part of a new fire truck plus efforts to correct welding issues as part of a Lee Center firehouse renovation.

• The cell-phone policy in its current format was not violated by the Lee Center fire department in the slide presentation at the March 30 annual installation banquet, said Hetherington. But “it gave us reason for tightening up some of the elements of it.”

The fire commissioners board oversees the fire department as part of its management of the taxpayer-funded Lee fire district. From the district’s standpoint, Hetherington expressed pride in the department and “everything they do to serve the community,” adding he understands efforts to let people know about the department’s work.

But “in mixed company...showing pictures of certain scenes....Some people could feel uncomfortable,” Hetherington commented. He said a number of people did not feel comfortable with some of the photos shown at the banquet.

The cell-phone policy for the fire department involves not releasing photos of emergency-response scenes, such as on Facebook for example, for “a variety of reasons” such as potential liability or litigation issues, said Hetherington.

Further tightening of the policy can involve limiting “live-scene” photos to the department’s internal use such as for possible training and procedural adjustments, he remarked. What is not wanted is for those types of photos to be distributed to the public, he added.

• For the fire siren, Hetherington could not yet estimate repair costs pending the evaluation.

He cited some mixed reactions about it not functioning.

“We’ve had calls from the public” asking “’How come the siren’s not going off?” said Hetherington. But others are “happy it’s not going off.”

However, a functional siren is in “the best interests of public safety,” Hetherington commented. While pagers also are used for notifying fire department members of emergency calls, he explained the siren can quickly be heard in case members are in activities where they cannot get to their pagers.

• Regarding a new mini-pumper firefighting vehicle for the Lee Center department, Hetherington said the chassis portion is expected to arrive around mid-May at a company that will outfit it with various equipment and accessories to “turn it into a fire truck.”

The fire district is preparing to pay up-front for the chassis and save money on interest charges, said Hetherington, noting that portion would be in the $60,000 range. The truck, to replace a current mini-pumper, hopefully will be ready by the end of the year, he added.

The overall $256,000 purchase was approved in December by commissioners.

• For the firehouse renovation, the board is seeking to coordinate with a contractor to have some structural-steel welding redone and inspected to meet specifications for the project, Hetherington said.

“We’re holding back about $9,000 of the total amount” for the project pending the welding work, said Hetherington. M.J. Dakota company of Oneida has been the main contractor for the renovation which included reconfiguring firehouse doors to better fit larger vehicles, at a total project cost of about $89,548.

The welding issues are “not detrimental,” but are “not compliant” with specifications, Hetherington observed.

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