With Pembroke’s Proposition 2 ½ override vote this Saturday, a public forum was held Monday night to discuss the three ballot questions which would hire thirteen new employees and permanently bump up the town’s budget by a million dollars.
One question is for 4 new paramedics at Pembroke’s Center Street Fire Station, the second for 8 new paramedics at the currently abandoned North Pembroke station, and the third for a full-time reference librarian at the town library.
One resident questioned Chief James Neenan as to why he refuses to hire EMT’s which would annually save $120,000 but Neenan said he’s sticking to his paramedic-only promise made to Pembroke more than a decade ago, “That would be a direct leap backwards, not a step, a leap. People in this town are entitled to a certain standard of care and we have been, since 1999, now offering an advanced life-support operation.”
Walter Thomas spoke as a strong supporter of Chief James Neenan’s personnel request in response to three emergency calls that the fire department received within twenty minutes last fall.
“This isn’t funny, this is life. You’re playing with lives here,” said Thomas.
However, a resident in opposition noted that the only call not timely answered by the department resulted in a burnt down garage, “It’s an awful lot of money to be spending for a shed and motorcycle on an annual basis.”
Library Director Deborah Wall also explained that it’s finally time for a research librarian, a job that’s been waiting to be filled since the new building opened in 1998, but she noted that with technology advancing, the community needs help, “They come in expecting us to know it, and most of this time we do for IPads and EReaders, and ‘I just bought this laptop’. But we don’t have the staff to keep up, we don’t have the staff to do the one-on-one, we do not have the staff to meet the demands of public training.”
If all three ballot questions are approved, the average Pembroke homeowner’s tax bill will increase by about $160.