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Massena carrer firefigthers increases code enforcement

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MASSENA - Several of Massena’s career firefighters, now trained in code enforcement, are helping village officials address substandard property concerns in the village.

Fire Driver in Charge Ken McGowan said he and fellow career firefighter Aaron Hardy recently completed New York state code enforcement training. They join career firefighter Bill O’Brien, who had previously received the training.

A fourth career firefighter, Walt Bean, has started code enforcement training and is expected to become a certified code compliance technician in January.

The firefighters serve as a backup to Massena Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Fregoe. Mr. McGowan said the career firefighters are now able to increase the amount of its code enforcement responsibilities, which include issuing building permits, conducting apartment inspections and new construction inspections and responding to property maintenance inspections.

“We are responding to a lot of property issue complaints. We’re also taking part in meetings with the mayor, police, Department of Public Works and building department to make sure we are all on the same page,” he said.

He said the firefighters’ additional code enforcement duties benefit Massena taxpayers.

“It’s a huge cost savings to the village because we’ve been doing code enforcement for a year now, and they don’t need to hire anybody else,” Mr. McGowan said.

Mr. McGowan said the fire department also benefits from code enforcement work because several firefighters are able to familiarize themselves with some village and town properties. And, when more familiar with a property, it is easier for firefighters to predict possible safety issues before going into a burning building, Mr. McGowan said.

“Basically, it gives us a leg up,” he said.

The career firefighters have also started to notify property owners a month before they conduct their fire inspections. He said the notifications give businesses the date of an inspection as well as an inventory of the items that will be covered during the on site visit.

“That way if they have any problems they can fix it up before we arrive,” Mr. McGowan said.

He also detailed some of the changes that have taken place since he was named fire driver in charge following the retirement of career firefighter foreman R. Shawn Gray.

He said they now have a new set of standard operational guidelines to bring the department up to industry standards.

The career firefighters will now be required to adhere to a dress code when at the station, identify themselves when they answer the telephone at the fire station, clean the station daily during their downtime and keep track in a log book for fire truck and equipment inventories.

“That way we are all on the same page,” he noted.

Mr. McGowan said the fire station is now locked down from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night to better control the flow of foot traffic in the building, which is shared with Massena’s volunteer firefighters.

He also provided village board members with an update on the status of the various fire trucks at last week’s meeting, noting one truck that had been out of Massena for 10 months still had issues when it was returned to the fire department.

“It’s gone for 10 months, and it comes back and it is still not working,” the fire driver in charge pointed out.

“I’ve also been delegating more responsibilities to the senior guys on shifts. Residents would see the changes if they came down to the station. The days of coming down and seeing guys sitting are over. Everybody there is supportive,” Mr. McGowan said.

“As far as the operations end of it, I don’t see any changes. We have the same experienced firefighters in the department.”

Mayor James F. Hidy applauded Mr. McGowan and the career firefighters for their efforts.

“This board appreciates you guys. We appreciate your pro-active approach,” Mr. Hidy told Mr. McGowan at last week’s meeting. “You’re the best in the north country - there’s no question about that.”

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