October 27, 2013

Potholes? Yeah, we do that. And more.

City Councilor Derek Czenczelewski sent this along in response to comments mady by his Democratic challengers:

I wanted to address comments made by two of my opponents in an article from Saturday’s Bristol Press. In the article, my opponents questioned the current Council’s conservative oversight and the new Engine 4 being constructed.

In 2006, when Ms. Zoppo-Sassu was on the City Council, a study was performed on all City firehouses. That study showed the need to replace Engine 4, located on Vincent P. Kelly Road. In 2013, the City included the renovation and replacement of Engine 4 in our Capital Improvement Budget. As a candidate this year, Ms. Zoppo-Sassu has questioned the need for the firehouse in southeastern Bristol, but has simultaneously pointed to the need for investment in public safety and implementing study recommendations.

So why did we approve this project? The renovations to the existing facility will allow for the relocation of the mechanical garage, where equipment and vehicles are maintained, which well help reduce the need for a larger, more expensive expansion and renovation of the central fire headquarters. In addition, the old facility will be utilized for additional storage of equipment, freeing up more space in all of our stations. The new station will house additional training facilities for our fire fighters as well, which should improve safety not only for the public, but for our firefighters as well. It will also feature additional bays that will be able to house the increasingly large vehicles of today's fire industry. Finally, the new station will serve as an emergency shelter in times of disaster.

The City also budgeted for much needed HVAC and structural safety improvements to Engine 5 on Mix Street, as well as emergency repairs at the central fire house.

When presented with the project by Fire Chief Jon Pose, we were informed of an alarming situation regarding emergency access to southeast Bristol. Due to the violent storms and subsequent flooding in recent years, the southeast portion of Bristol has been isolated from the rest of the City’s emergency personnel and equipment at times. Fortunately, no major fire and rescue operations were needed, as it would have been nearly impossible to get equipment from the central fire house, including our ladder truck, to southeast Bristol.

As someone looking to represent the 3rd District, I would have hoped Ms. Zoppo-Sassu would have a stronger understanding of the needs of southeastern Bristol – the very area she could be representing if elected.

Ms. Zoppo-Sassu also made the assertion in the article that we should be fixing potholes instead. I’m glad this was mentioned, because during my term on the Council, the City worked with both Plymouth and Plainville to acquire a pothole patcher at a significant savings for Bristol taxpayers. The new vehicle will make the repair of our City streets quicker, safer and more efficient. The vehicle only needs a single operator, much like our garbage trucks. This will in turn free up our employees to tackle other maintenance issues, and further help improve our residents’ quality of life.

Over the past two years other items in our capital improvement budgets have allowed for additional flood relief measures, major road reconstruction projects, new safety equipment and technology for the police department, new technology in our schools and City buildings, new roofs at the Board of Education and Northeast Middle School, new street signage per a state mandate, bridge replacements and infrastructure improvements. Although these projects are not quite as exciting as a new park, their importance cannot be stressed enough. 

One last item from the article that needs to be clarified is my stance on privatization. The article alleged that I have been “pushing for privatization.” Although I did make the motion to explore the cost effectiveness of certain City operations by publishing a request for information, this was an exercise to compare the total costs and effectiveness of our current operations with that of the private sector. As a result of this exercise, we found that in most cases our expenditures are very competitive. In other cases, we have room for improvement.

But my preference has always been, and will continue to be, to work with our employees and bargaining units to ensure our contracts are fair and reasonable - both to the taxpayers and our employees. To their credit, Mayor Ward, Personnel Director Diane Ferguson, and the various bargaining units have stepped up to the plate over the past two years in the best interests of both the workers and the citizens of Bristol. I’d like to thank the fire fighters union in particular for their most recent negotiated contract which should save taxpayers nearly $1 million over the next three years.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

No comments: