Separate public safety developments centered in East Braintree will likely herald improved emergency response in the neighborhood as the prepares to fund a second ladder truck and Citgo faces the need to modernize its firefighting capabilities.
Fire Chief Kevin Murphy has been in talks this week with the manager of Citgo's Quincy Avenue terminal following to reflect its desire to store additional non-petroleum fuel such as ethanol. The proposed change, which will come in front of the Board of License Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 28, could mean upgrades to foam, trailers and hoses that are more than two decades old.
And on Wednesday night, the council's Committee on Ways & Means reviewed the mayor's fiscal year 2012 capital budget plan that includes $925,000 for a new aerial platform fire truck to serve East Braintree. Council members ultimately tabled the $5 million package, which includes money for the police department, DPW and schools, among others, until the committee's next meeting on Feb. 28.
Ways & Means chair Paul "Dan" Clifford said the delay would allow officials to put together a comprehensive report on Braintree's current debt obligations.
"Unlike the United States of America, we can't print money," Clifford said. "It's important to let the people of Braintree know how many pennies per dollar we're spending on our debt."
Still, the fire truck is almost certain to be approved, District 3 Councilor Tom Bowes said, adding that it will be a satisfying solution for a vital public safety need.
"It's been a long-term goal," Chief of Staff and Operations Peter Morin said. "It's a good plan, it will pass."
Mayor Joseph Sullivan anticipates that the nearly $1 million cost of the truck will be partially borne by an outside source, according to a letter from finance director Edward Spellman to the council. The amount the council is set to authorize – $925,000 – could be reduced "to the extent of any grants, gifts or other funds received by the Town to pay costs of purchasing and equipping the ladder truck described above, which amounts are expected to total approximately $450,000."
Though the town has been in talks since last year with federal officials and Clean Harbors , Morin said that it would be "speculation" to conclude that town officials are expecting the $450,000 to come from the settlement.
"There have been ongoing negotiations on an appropriate settlement of the EPA, Clean Harbors situation that would address Braintree's needs," Morin said.
Four years ago, Environmental Protection Agency inspectors found 30 violations at Clean Harbor’s Braintree storage site off Quincy Avenue, including inadequate containment, improper storage and failure to properly maintain hazardous-waste tanks.
and settlement that local, state and federal officials criticized for not benefiting Braintree, the actual site of the environmental problems.
The town appealed to the Assistant Attorney General for Environmental and Natural Resources and officials said at the time that , though they would pursue its purchase regardless of the Clean Harbors outcome.
"It is an equitable solution for the community that [the Clean Harbors settlement] provide the funding for it," Morin told Braintree Patch last year.
Braintree currently has one truck with a ladder that can reach high floors and extract residents, Murphy said in an interview last year, and another that relies on ground ladders. This limits the ability of the department to send out a ladder truck to help other towns nearby. It also means that the town must rely on other communities for the highest rescues when the main ladder truck undergoes annual servicing and testing.
A second ladder is especially important for East Braintree because it has large industrial facilities such as BELD, Clean Harbors and Citgo. The fuel facility, in particular, is overdue for increased attention from the fire department, Murphy said in a recent interview.
Last week, after Citgo put in its request for a license modification, Murphy attended seminars in Quincy and Boston on fighting fires fueled by biodiesel – the sort of flammable liquid that Citgo would like to increase its capacity for by as much as 10 million gallons.
The terminal currently has permission to store up to 57,200,000 gallons of petroleum-based fuel. Site manager Allen Morris said during the last license board meeting that the company does not plan to increase its fuel capacity beyond that amount, and in fact "probably never" holds that much on site.
Murphy also said that he would like to set up regular training for his firefighters at the Citgo site. Before sessions last September in anticipation of the current proposal, the company had not coordinated training with the department in about 15 years.
"I just want to make sure our firefighters are safe and the community is safe," the chief said. “It’s a learning process for me too.”
Beyond modifying the terms of the license, future tank construction and/or other physical updates that Morris mentioned last week would require approval of several oversight bodies, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection and the town's Planning Board.
Bowes, East Braintree's district councilor, said on Wednesday that he was concerned about the fast pace Citgo seems to be setting in their request for serious site alterations, and will work to ensure the neighborhood's emergency needs are served.
"I'm going to hold this up until all of our questions are answered," he said of the license change.