We noted in a May editorial that hundreds of residents gather on the Town Common each Sept. 11 for First Responders Day. The ceremony honors the victims and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and recognizes Lynnfield first responders for keeping townspeople safe.
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. That is why we are urging townspeople one last time to approve the $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project during the Special Town Election on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in the Lynnfield High School gym.
The $63.5 million project entails constructing a new three-story Fire Headquarters that would have four bays next to the existing South Station, which will be razed once the new Fire Headquarters is built.
The project also involves renovating and expanding the Police Station, the current Fire Headquarters and Town Hall. The Town Hall component of the project will make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Town Hall project includes installing an elevator and constructing a new H. Joseph Maney Meeting Room for municipal boards and community groups to use.
Fall Town Meeting voted 287-33 on Nov. 14 to send the public safety project to a townwide debt exclusion vote on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
There is no sugarcoating it. All three public safety buildings are a mess and it’s long overdue for the town to fix the problem. Former Selectman Bob MacKendrick recalled during Fall Town Meeting that he began his 42-year tenure working for the Fire Department in May 1961 when both stations were “several months old.”
“These buildings were obsolete before they were even built,” said MacKendrick. “Even then, they did not meet the standards from 1936. The architect who designed these stations never designed a fire station in his life. He took the measurements of the 1934 and 1936 fire trucks, and that is how he designed the doors and the floors. In fact, the captain at South Station pointed out that if it was built the way it was planned, the trucks wouldn’t fit in the station and the bumpers would be sticking out the doors.”
Lynnfield firefighters store their turnout gear next to the fire engines and ambulances at both stations, which increases their risk to being diagnosed with cancer.
“It was found that the exhaust was blowing all over the gear,” said Fire Lt./Paramedic Jeff Fiorentino during Fall Town Meeting. “We do have a piping system to try and mitigate that, but it’s not 100 percent. When our gear goes into a car fire or a house fire, it absorbs all of the carcinogens. We do have a means to try and wash the gear, but it’s not 100 percent. The gear never gets fully clean. After we put that gear back on the apparatus floor, it is off-gassing these carcinogens right into the stations. The new stations will have the gear go into a separate room so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the station. We are doing our best to make our job safer from cancer, and this is something we need your help to fix.”
The Police Station is also a mess. Officers have to use a narrow, turning staircase located next to the garage to bring prisoners into the facility. If a confrontation occurred while a prisoner was being brought into the station, a police officer could be seriously injured. That is unacceptable.
All three stations have inadequate facilities for women as well. While a closet was converted into a women’s restroom at Fire Headquarters, South Station has one restroom that is shared by both men and women.
The women’s holding cell is located in the women’s locker room in the Police Station.
“We need female police officers in Lynnfield, but how can we recruit women to come and work in a station with no separate facilities,” said Police Chief Nick Secatore during Fall Town Meeting. “It’s unacceptable for a community such as Lynnfield.”
Secatore is absolutely correct. It’s beyond sexist that all three stations have inadequate facilities for women.
In addition to addressing the problems at all three stations, we believe it is long overdue to make Town Hall ADA compliant. During a recent visit to Town Hall, we noticed an older gentleman having trouble getting up the stairs to vote early. The man became was so exhausted that he had to sit on the top of the steps to catch his breath before casting his ballot. That would not have occurred if Town Hall had an elevator. The status quo is unacceptable.
Lynnfield’s first responders, Town Hall employees and residents deserve better. That is why we are urging townspeople to support the project and vote yes on Tuesday, Dec. 6.