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PETER SHEDD - BERNARDSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT, MA
Years ago, Peter Shedd worked for the highway department and responded to emergency calls during working hours. Seeing volunteer firefighters respond to emergencies and hearing family members who volunteered talk about their experiences convinced Peter that he should volunteer for the local fire department, as well. Forty-five years, eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren later, Peter continues to volunteer at the Bernardston Fire Department in MA. He has served as chief since 1995.
Not long after becoming chief, Peter began exploring options for tackling a big problem at the fire station: a small space. The station lacked the space necessary to handle the equipment and crew required to respond to an ever-increasing call volume. About 10 years ago, Peter says he started to get some local support for a station expansion. Just last month, years of pitching, meetings, and voting finally resulted in funding approval for a fire station expansion project. Read on to learn more about Peter and how he finally got his dream for the Bernardston Fire Department approved.
Peter Shedd and his wife Roxene, better known as the chief's chief
What options did you explore for improving working conditions for your crew?
We looked at every piece of property the town had [for a new space], some multiple times. We looked at merging with neighboring departments, but found this to be the most expensive option. My goal was to keep the department as centrally located as possible. We ended up with a plan to build right beside the current station, attaching both new and old structures, which will almost triple our station's size.
Getting your station expansion funding approved was quite an ordeal. Tell us a little about the approval process.
It took 20 years of talking, 10 years of active debate and planning, two studies, and two town meetings. We lost the first town meeting badly and came just short of being run out of the building. At the second town meeting a floor vote of four to one sealed the deal for our project.
You certainly were able to turn things around! How did you do it?
The biggest strengths I had for this project were pitching the facts and taking the time, day or night, to show residents the station and its conditions. I did not sugar coat anything. I showed it and told it the way it was and explained what needed to be done to make the station right and safe for our members.
What advice do you have for other volunteer departments seeking funding for projects?
Be persistent and stick with the facts. We gave out all the hard data: call volume, times and days of calls, response times, dollars lost and saved. We reminded others that we do it all as call firefighters; that we all have regular jobs too. We also tried to be involved with every town event to show that we are here for good times and bad times. Doing that gave people a chance to meet the firefighters and to recognize them and thank them for what they do.
Are there any other thoughts about your department you'd like to share?
We fight fires hard and fast. My firefighters are a very aggressive bunch and I'm proud of them. They are also very compassionate and caring about doing their jobs and taking care of our town.