Select Board Hears Report on the HFD’s Organization Evaluation – and Re-organizes the Board

A different view of Holliston’s Select Board, but the same passion for doing important work for our town.  Recently re-elected Select Board Chair (for part of this meeting) called the May 31, 2022, meeting to order at 7:00pm.  Continuing the series of presentations on the many studies / projects underway, the Board launched into its first order of business.

PUBLIC FORUM: Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) Presentation to Select Board of Evaluation of Service Models for Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

  • Presentation from MRI
  • Discussion of findings and recommendations
  • Votes may be taken, if appropriate
  • Schedule of follow up Public Forum(s) for long-term strategies

Twenty-seven different people logged into the Zoom session to hear the report. It should be noted that “overflow seating” was set up (via Zoom) in Upper Town Hall in case room 105 got too crowded. The upstairs seats remained vacant – but ready.

Mr. David Houghton, retired Fire Chief for the town of Wayland, presented the overview of the HFD study recently concluded by Municipal Resources, Inc.

Mr. Houghton was very complimentary of the responsiveness the team received from the Town.  He noted that many of the recommendations came from the confidential one-on-one interviews and some e-mail input.  The confidential nature of the discussions led to very forthright input.

Tuesday’s presentation summarizes the full 90-page report including over 100 recommendations available at -> Holliston Fire / EMS Study Entire Report

The slides that follow are much of the presentation. The entire presentation can be found at -> Holliston Fire/EMS Study Presentation

Mr. Houghton made special mention of the fact that Holliston rating as Class 4 is “fantastic” for a Town with an on-call department.
Mr. Houghton pointed out that the lower-than-average use of equipment should lead to longer usable of the equipment.
RECC = Regional Emergency Communication Center
Here, Mr. Houghton touched on some of the more than 100 recommendations contained in the full report.
Some of these challenges are not unique to Holliston – more nation-wide.

At this point the public was invited to comment with an eye to the future of HFD rather than historical stories.

Resident Liz Bourque-Theiler shared a personal experience regarding EMS service.  She feels strongly that more money should be invested in Advanced Life Support (ALS) resources.  New firefighters should be hired who have the Paramedic certification.

Fire Chief Michael Cassidy joined the SB at the table to share his perspective on the process and the report.  Cassidy noted the “collegial approach” used by the MRI team as they met with key stakeholders.  He very much looks forward to working with Town staff to implement changes.  The Board noted that Chief Cassidy is still wearing many hats and that he should not hesitate to contact the Board for assistance when needed.  The Chief appreciated the support of the Board.

Fire Captain John Gagnon (above) asked three questions of Mr. Houghton:

  • Is there a breakdown of Basic Life Support / Advanced Life Support? Not part of the study.
  • Is there was a model that could partner an experience Paramedic with a newer Paramedic to get more ALS resources.  Yes, and the ramp up needs to happen within 3 years of starting. 
  • Would having many Paramedics on staff not allow for enough practice.  Mr. Houghton noted that many Paramedics work for more than one emergency service and stay current that way.

Above, Holliston resident and firefighter / EMT Chris Pierce volunteered his time to work along the Town staff to tackle the recommended actions from the MRI study.

The Board approved Mr. Ahern’s alignment of the MRI report’s 100 recommendations to members of the Town staff with an initial report back to the Board by July 18, 2022.  The plan is to have at least one more Public Forum on the topic in September 2022.

Public Comment:  The public had commented following the MRI presentation.

  • Mr. Cronin:
    • Thanks to Steve Bradford and veterans for Memorial Day parade
    • Noted Christian Buday’s herculean work to schlep his video camera and tripod the entire length of the parade and still capture the ceremony at Town Hall
  • Mr. Sparrell:
    • Enjoyed the parade and tremendous turnout along the way.
  • Mrs. Hein:
    • Very proud of Holliston for the marvelous Memorial Day activities
    • Thanked the Town Clerk, staff, and volunteers for the successful Annual Town Election on May 24th.

Re-organization of Select Board following Annual Town Election results (May 24, 2022)

The newly reelected Select Board member Tina Hein nominated herself to serve as SB Clerk.  She was unanimously approved.  Ben Sparrell nominated John Cronin to be the SB Vice-chair.  The vote was unanimous for Mr. Cronin.  Mr. Cronin nominated Ben Sparrell to serve as SB Chair for the coming year.  The motion passed unanimously.  Best wishes for a successful year.  Look for a new seating arrangement at next Monday’s meeting.

Warrants: The newly reconstituted SB approved the weekly expenses totaling – $477,628.57.

Comments from Town Administrator:  Mr. Ahern updated the SB as follows:

  • The ARPA Steering Group will hold its next meeting on June 13, 2022.  The agenda is posted on the Town website.
  • Pride month begins June 1, 2022.  The SB has approved the display of the pride flag and a custom Holliston pride flag on Town Hall.

Board Business: The Select Board took the following actions:

  • Firefighter Appointments:
    • (postponed)
  • EMT Appointments:
    • Lorrin Stone as EMT effective immediately
  • Appointed Retired Officer John Scanlon a Special Police Officer (thru June 30, 2022, to be reappointed with all Special Officers as of July 1, 2022)
  • Approved the Entertainment License at the Holliston Farmer’s Market. Farmer’s Market Manager Bobby Blair (below) explains that musical entertainment is planned for Sundays June 19 and 26 from 10:00 am – Noon (the Market runs from 9:30 – 1:00).  The approval is contingent upon the volume of music is “within reason.”
  • Approved the minutes from the April 11, 2022; April 19, 2022; and April 25, 2022 meetings
  • Approved the Lion’s Club Common Victuallers license for the annual Carnival: July 13 – 16, 2022.
  • Approved the event permit for High Rock Road Block Party June 11, 2022 noon to 8:00pm. Requested by Nancy Leger.
  • Approved the event permit for Irving Place Block Party June 18, 2022, 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm. Requested by Barbara Ryan.

Other Business:  Mrs. Hein alerted everyone regarding the following:

  • Rain Barrel Discounted Purchase Information
  • Town Offices and Schools will be CLOSED on Monday, June 20, 2022, in observance of Juneteenth (June 19th).  No delay is trash pickup that week.
  • July 9, 2022, is Holliston Hazardous Waste Day at R.A.M.S. from 8 – Noon (or when full)
  • The Select Board will hold an Executive Session on June 6, 2022, for the purpose of discussing the Town Administrator employment contract.

The meeting adjourned at 8:32pm.  A presentation on the feasibility study of the Linden Street wastewater treatment plant will be on next Monday’s SB agenda.

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Chris Cain


  1. Liz Theiler on June 3, 2022 at 10:56 am

    The report clearly states:

    “there is a crisis that is slowly building in Holliston and most people are unaware.”
    “The Department needs to improve its overall response to EMS calls and to increase the level of service provided.” p 5
    “Actual response for each piece (equipment) is lower than average.
    “It appears that there is a very dangerous practice of a personal vehicle, chief’s car, or weekend car responding to investigate a call before moving any apparatus, and it is estimated this happens approximately 39% of the time.,. Gambling with not only the life safety of the responders, but also of the residents.” p 31
    “The primary ambulance should be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with staff at the station.”p41
    Holliston needs change and that is evident in the MRI report. The health and safety of the community is more important than the financial benefit of the few

  2. Jackie Dellicker on June 3, 2022 at 11:03 am

    Great job on reporting a very informative report on our Fire Dept.Since I remember when there was no ambulance service at all I am hoping the problems can be “fixed” in short order & are not to costly. Call Dept. seems to have served Holliston well over the years For which I say a grateful Thank You to all those dedicated volunteers. Jackie Dellicker