The Block Island Times

Payne re-elected as fire chief

By Stephanie Turaj | Jan 19, 2014
Photo by: Stephanie Turaj Nominating committee member Jaixen Hall announces the results of the election.

Tristan Payne, who has been Block Island’s Fire Chief since 2012, (and one term in 2003), has been re-elected to the role for another year.

About 15 members of the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department attended a Monday, Jan. 13, meeting to cast their votes for positions at the department. Rick Batchelder had also been nominated for the position as Fire Chief.

At the meeting, there was some confusion about whether or not Batchelder accepted the nomination. He was nominated at last month’s meeting by Peter Greenman. Nominating committee member Jaixen Hall said he had spoken to Batchelder but “he did not give me a straight answer,” and nominating committee member Chris O’Neill said his calls were not returned. However, Mike Lofaro said Batchelder expressed to him a willingness to serve, but Lofaro was not part of the nominating committee.

“Typical Block Island scenario,” commented one person at the meeting.

Batchelder is currently traveling in England, and members called his cell phone but received no response (where it was about 4 a.m.). They proceeded with the elections anyway.

Members elected Peter Greenman for treasurer, who was running for the position against Howell Conant. Previous treasurer Mike Lofaro had chosen not to run for re-appointment.

Three other candidates, running unopposed, were re-appointed: Bryan Wilson as rescue captain, Peter Gempp as assistant chief and Sara Sprague as secretary.

After his re-appointment, Payne commented several times during the meeting that he wanted to make changes to the department.

“I’m trying to rein this in a little,” he said, referring to his desire to get more members involved and streamline the department’s administrative process. “My goal is to bring all Fire Department correspondence here — nothing is going to anyone’s residences anymore. There’s a lot of things we have to do on the paper end. I get a lot of letters, insurance. We need to get a better-generated system, and we need to catalog all of our equipment.”

He also said, “We’re going to be crystal clear on our business from now on.”

Payne later said he wanted to appoint Howell Conant to a position as assistant chief. Conant did not formally accept, but seemed amenable, commenting that the role would include “basically the same stuff” he has been doing. Among other things, Conant provides technical assistance with the department’s alarm system.

Other department matters

Outgoing treasurer Mike Lofaro reported that the department received $14,350 in donations for 2013. Donations included some “notable checks of $2,000 that came in,” and Christmas tree sales, which raised $1,800.

Department members voted to spend up to $5,400 on new hardwood flooring in the rescue building. Wilson reported the current carpeting is “ratty,” and flooring would be a better option.

Howell Conant commented: “Once again, that’s a town building. Shouldn’t the town pay for that?”

Department member Kate McConville responded that “we don’t want to wait” until this year’s budget process. There was a discussion about notifying the town of the payment, so the town could possibly reimburse the department later.

Department member Pete McNerney reported that repairs to fire vehicle “Engine 1,” which included the water pump and brakes, have been completed and the vehicle is back on the island.

Wilson reported there were 291 rescue calls for 2013, a slight drop from 2012, which had 303 calls. However, he said, there was an increase in moped and bike accidents.

“We are seeing a spike in bike accidents, and a slight one in mopeds,” he said. “Even though our total numbers are down, we are up on more serious accidents.”

Also, Wilson reported that his presentation to the Town Council about preliminary plans for a new fire building had gone well. “They [the council] said okay, but there was no formal vote,” said Wilson. “They pretty much said ‘run with the ball for a little while and come back to us with updates.’”

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