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Groton - The Poquonnock Bridge Fire District Board voted Thursday to move firefighters out of 13 Fort Hill Road - one of its two fire stations - to save money.
Fire Chief Todd Paige said firefighters still would be able to reach the most developed areas of the fire district, including Midway Oval, within 5 minutes. Response times to other locations east of the Fort Hill station could increase by 3 minutes depending on the location, he said.
But, Paige said, the decision was better than the alternatives - running out of money or laying off firefighters.
"I'm comfortable with doing this," he said. "It's not ideal, but considering we're looking at not having enough funds to make it to the end of the year, I'm comfortable with this recommendation."
The board will continue to lease the Fort Hill station and maintain the fire marshal's office there, but would use the rest of the station only to store equipment.
The decision would save on heat and maintenance costs for the building, board member Ron Yuhas said.
Paige said the department also would be able to save money by using a fire department pickup truck to respond to medical calls rather than an engine.
The district's two fire stations each have one engine. Both those engines now will be based at Long Hill Road station. Both will still be used to respond to fire calls and to some medical calls. But the department plans to stock its pickup with additional medical equipment so it can be used on some calls instead of an engine, Paige said.
"We need the flexibility of having everybody together so we increase our options on how we respond," he said.
The board approved the change 3-2, with board President Alan Ackley breaking a tie vote. Board members Randy Ackley and Yuhas voted in favor, while board members Kenneth Richards III and Deb Monteiro voted against. The remaining four board members were absent.
"It's not a perfect solution, but we're not going to have enough money under the projections and we have to save money where we can," Paige said. "We have to do what we can to sustain the department through the rest of the year."
The board also decided to proceed with sending a letter to businesses warning them that they should no longer depend on the box alarm system, but instead should make other arrangements. The board is not dismantling the system, but it plans to fund only minimum maintenance. The letter is intended to warn businesses that, within 90 days, the system may not work as it should and they should make other plans.
Paige said he has sent a request to Groton Utilities to eliminate the 48 red lights above the district's fire boxes. Powering them costs about $214 a month.
Board members are drafting a letter to be reviewed by Paige and then sent to the 216 affected businesses, which include restaurants, shopping center managers, day care centers and health care facilities.