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Select Board roundup: Fire chief to depart June 11; LNG drill ‘excellent,’ but residents express concerns

by | May 9, 2023 | Featured: News, News

During Tuesday’s Select Board meeting, Fire Chief Bill Miller shared that his last day with the department will be June 11. After 22 years in Hopkinton, including the last two as chief, he has accepted a position as chief in Bellingham.

“I don’t want to see you leave, but I understand that you have to,” Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere told Miller. “We will miss you very, very, very much.”

Town Manager Norman Khumalo said the town has not yet worked out a transition plan and asked the board for direction. He said Deputy Fire Chief Gary Daugherty Jr. is prepared to take over on an interim basis, as the process of hiring a new chief will go past June 11.

The board agreed to open the position to external candidates but with internal candidates encouraged to apply. Khumalo noted that the town has a large number of vacancies in various positions and suggested that the board might be better served hiring an outside firm to lead the search instead of adding another responsibility to the town’s Human Resources Department.

Select Board member Muriel Kramer said while she had no doubt that internal candidates will show “incredibly well,” she wanted to make sure the best candidate gets the job. “I do hope that we search broadly and have a competitive process,” she added.

Emergency personnel praise LNG drill, but residents raise concerns

Miller and Police Chief Joseph Bennett offered highly positive reviews for the May 4 emergency preparedness test at the Eversource liquified natural gas (LNG) facility on Wilson Street.

Miller noted that the drill’s purpose was to test the safety features that are built into the plant, and, “Everything went off excellent.”

Added Bennett: “It was probably the best exercise or drill I’ve participated in, the most comprehensive by far. It was quite an experience.”

Khumalo added that the drill itself is an indication that Eversource is showing a willingness to be a better neighbor, following multiple issues in the past. Most notably, in 2017 there was what Eversource termed a “thermal anomaly” in one of the tanks that holds approximately 3 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas, yet the company did not notify the town about it for eight months.

“It, at least for me, symbolizes the growth and the effort that we’ve all put into building a relationship with Eversource to ensure public safety,” Khumalo said.

A handful of residents who spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting did not share the good feelings about Eversource. The residents, who live near the LNG facility, expressed concerns about the aging gas tanks and asked for a special meeting to further discuss potential safety issues. Khumalo said a forum could be arranged.

Kramer shares thoughts on Porter situation

During public comment, Kramer touched on the situation involving former Deputy Police Chief John Porter, who earlier in the day entered a plea of not guilty to charges of rape dating back to his time as a school resource officer at Hopkinton High School.

Said Kramer: “We stand with survivors of sexual violence. We honor your testimony and your courage. We believe you, we commit to facing hard truths and having difficult but necessary conversations. And we want the community to help us, to hold each other accountable. Please stay in communication and let us know what you need from us as we work to get through this together.”

Added Kramer: “It’s going to be hard for all of us, but we will steadfastly work together to try to address this as transparently, as honestly, as forthrightly and as fully as we need to.”

Misc: New hires welcomed

The board welcomed Seth Ledoux as senior library assistant and Erin Grogan as Parks and Recreation Department program coordinator. …

Khumalo said Tom Temple has stepped in to help with the Department of Public Works while the town seeks a replacement for John Westerling, who left as director late last month for a similar position in Natick. Temple is a former assistant commissioner for Marlborough’s DPW and now is retired, Khumalo said. …

The board accepted the resignation of Priya Vasudevan from the Sustainable Green Committee.


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