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$318,000 shouldn’t be too much to spend to protect the public

Since 2010, I have informed the public of the safety issues concerning the North Stonington Road Bridge closure. Over the years both the towns of Stonington and Groton have included in their respective budget their cost-share to repair the bridge. However, until this year, Groton consistently cut the funding from their budget. Now, after supporting the project for the last nine years, Stonington has elected to cut funding while Groton has pledged to keep its funding intact.

The Old Mystic Fire District has gone on record many times regarding the public safety issues they face with the closure of the North Stonington Bridge. The Old Mystic Fire Department responded to 1,256 calls for service last year. The apparatus from our 21 North Stonington Road station in Stonington was dispatched 409 times to the Groton side of the fire district. With the bridge closed we must make a right-hand turn at the narrow intersection of Main Street and Route 27. This presents a major driving hazard for our personnel and equipment as well as the public.

In 2010, in order to cover our assets and protect the district legally, we installed a dash cam in the apparatus to record any problems faced while using this intersection. The footage was evidence enough that traversing this intersection in our fire apparatus is a safety hazard. There have been occasions when the driver has had to turn around because the apparatus would not fit through Main Street by the Post Office due to delivery trucks and/or cars and other vehicles that were parked on both sides of the street. This delayed our response by over 4 minutes, critical time in responding to a fire or other emergency.

While safely gaining access to the Groton side is a major concern, so is fire suppresion. While the bridge is closed, the nearest fire hydrant to the affected Groton side of the bridge is 360 feet away. The next fire hydrant is located at Main Street and Route 27. At a fire call, if we lay a five-inch supply line to the Groton side, the distance increases to 1,020 feet and requires the closures of Main Street, Route 27 and Shewville Road.

I respect the political and administrative leaders of both towns. I ask for that same respect in return for the wellbeing of our community. For 44 years I’ve dedicated my life to public safety, 26 of them as fire chief. I consider myself to be an educated and well-qualified individual regarding this matter and I am disheartened by the lack of support.

Damaged by flooding, it will take a $318,000 contribution from each town, with the total then matched by the state, to repair and reopen the bridge. Considering the warm winter we experienced this year, and the savings from the lack of snow-removal costs, I am certain that both towns, even under the fiscal restraints they are claiming, can find the funds necessary to complete a project that is eight years overdue.

Residents have spoken with a petition of over 120 signatures asking to repair the bridge. This is not about Republican versus Democrat. It’s about what is right and wrong.

Public Safety must take priority in decision making. I encourage the community to respectfully contact your public leaders and demand the North Stonington Bridge be repaired and reopened.

Kenneth W. Richards Jr. is the fire chief and fire marshal for the Old Mystic Fire Department.

 

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