Fire whistle fails at Town Meeting

LYNDEBOROUGH – Voters on Saturday approved a budget of $1.7 million, created a town forest, made contributions to a dozen capital reserve funds and adopted a few changes in the administration of the Fire Department.

In fact, they approved everything on the warrant except reactivating an old fire whistle. That one was tabled until the Fire Department comes up with more information. Voters also dedicated the annual report to Rick McQuade, who recently retired after 27 years in the Fire Department – 15 years as chief. They approved changes in tax exemptions for veterans and the elderly, as well.

About 100 people attended the four-hour meeting at Citizens’ Hall. Town Administrator Russ Boland said the budget included a 3.5 percent increase in salaries, which now include a 10-step system based on merit and a new evaluating process. There is also coverage of four elections this year; a 6.5 percent rise in benefit costs; two additional employees; and a rise in liability insurance costs.

"We are always looking for ways to save," Boland said. The new town forest abuts Scout Road, and will provide parking and a new trail to the newly created conservation area on the summit of Rose Mountain. Scout Road has deteriorated until it is almost impassable. "This is in keeping with the Master Plan to protect the mountaintops," Conservation Commission member Mike Decubelis said.

He noted that a Winn Mountain conservation area is now closed to the public because a new landowner closed the trail. The new forest will prevent that from happening again.

The town will buy a midsized dump truck for the Highway Department under a lease/purchase agreement. Voters changed the purpose of two highway department funds to reflect the current equipment.

The fire whistle has been on top of Citizens’ Hall since about 1950. It was given to the town by the state, and was probably an air raid siren from World War II.

The whistle doesn’t work and isn’t needed because emergency personnel have pagers. Supporter Mark Chase said it was used to alert people in an emergency. He said he didn’t know what was wrong with it, nor what it would cost to repair it.

Selectman Fred Douglas said the Fire Department should look into it, and that it was repaired some years ago at considerable cost. Budget Committee member Burton Reynolds said he had "probably experienced it the longest," since he has lived next door most of his life.

"I’m not excited about having it reinstalled," he said. The article was tabled until next Town Meeting to give supporters time to get more information.