The extra money will help to cover overtime costs for when a firefighter must staff Ashdod station during the day to cover for a colleague who is sick or on vacation. Currently, when a firefighter calls in sick or takes a vacation day, there is no one to cover that shift because there is not enough money in the FY04 budget to pay for overtime. That’s when Ashdod station on Congress St. in West Duxbury must close. It only closes during the day, never at night or during bad weather. So far, it has had 112 closures since the fiscal year began in July, according to Fire Chief Bill Harriman. However, the building is not empty as the Jordan Hospital paramedics are stationed there.
Ashdod station reopened in May 2000. It was closed in 1990 due to budget constraints.
The money will be added to Article 5 for the FY05 operating budget as an amendment on town meeting floor. It will restore about 40 shifts, said Harriman.
Even with this additional funding, the fire department will face a shortfall of $10,000 to $20,000, said Harriman. It must receive a reserve fund transfer at the end of the fiscal year if this is the case. To keep Ashdod open all the time would take an extra $40,000 to $50,000, according to Harriman.
"I will work with this offer," said Harriman, "but I can’t enthusiastically support it. There’s a part of me that says go for the gusto."
George Shamma, of King Phillips Path, tried to convince selectmen to support adding $50,000 to the budget to keep Ashdod open all the time.
"This is an urgent situation," said Shamma, who is running for the board of selectmen in the March election. "This is totally unacceptable. We live in a town with a $48 million budget and we can’t come up with $50,000?
"We’re playing with fire and putting peoples’ lives at stake," Shamma added.
He urged selectmen to find the additional money and amend the budget on town meeting floor with a larger sum. He said he could "nickel and dime" the budget and come up with an extra $50,000, but it would be better for selectmen to do it.
"I’d like to see you craft an amendment and present it at Town Meeting. It’s a lot easier for you do to this than for me and I’m here to ask for your help," Shamma said.
Selectmen said there was no additional money in the proposed FY05 budget to open Ashdod during staff vacancies.
"The reality is that contrary to what you’re implying – that $40,000 to $50,000 is chump change – we’re struggling," said Selectman Andre Martecchini.
"We’ve been working on this budget since August. There is no fat in this budget," said Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan. "We don’t have the money."