Whitman chiefs warn of staffing level, building safety issues
By Dave Palana
WHITMAN — Fire chief Tim Grenno told Selectmen his department is facing a staffing crisis, and Police Chief Scott Benton addressed concerns about the safety of the police station following a second lightning strike, as both chiefs presented their first monthly reports on their departments to Selectmen Tuesday, July 22.
Grenno was unable to attend the meeting, but said in a prepared report that staffing will be his top priority in the coming budget year. He said his department has responded to 12,018 calls in 2014 and that the station can be empty two to three times in a day due to all staff responding to emergencies.
“The string we have been walking on finally broke,” Grenno said in his report, which was read by Lt. Al Cunningham. “We are constantly finding ourselves behind the ball and trying to play catch-up.”
In his report, Benton told Selectmen that the police station was recently stuck by lightning for the second time in two years, which has him concerned for the safety of his officers.
Benton said the recent strike damaged equipment and led to concerns about whether the building has been properly grounded.
“Now the issue is the safety of the people in the building,” Benton said.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam said the town has been in “constant contact” with the station’s architect over the issues. While Lynam said there has been lightning attention arresters placed on the antennae at the station, it is not clear where the lightning is striking.
“There isn’t necessarily any evidence on the tower,” Lynam said. “It’s not clear the lighting has hit the tower or the building.”
Lynam also said the damage seems to affect the dispatch area, which is the most “electronically intense” area of the station apart from the server room. He said the copper pipes in the radio room are up to code, but not the size and depth specified in the original plans for the station.
“I tend to blame the contractor that did the electrical work,” he said.
Lynam added that the damage is covered by insurance, but that this will be the second claim of more that $100,000 at the new station.