Grafton Ambulance Service – Lost Licenses and Revised Minutes

Revised MinutesEarlier this year two members of our Ambulance crew, including its Captain, April Dugan and her husband, one of Grafton’s Selectman, Sean Frost, received certified letters from the state saying their NH EMS Provider Licenses were revoked due to providing “fraudulent information in documentation” of education requirements on their NREMT application. Apparently hours submitted were greater than the class’s defined credit hours. There was evidence of altered documents, they were under investigation since April 30th, and they each were found guilty of two separate fraud charges in July.  A scan of the letter to Sean Frost is included below.

Only members with EMT certification can be elected as officers.  It would have been moral and professional for Captain April Dugan, to step down until the matter was resolved. The letter from the state makes it clear that the matter could be resolved in a few months if the appropriate training hours were obtained. So, after a brief stint as a non-officer and obtaining necessary training, things could get back to normal.

But April Dugan retained the position.  She called meetings, canceled meetings, and ultimately we are now a month out from the time she could get her license back. At last night’s meeting with a majority vote (Dugan, Dugan, and Dugan) action was deferred to next month. At August’s meeting, which April and Sean missed, it was decided to replace April as Captain. Last night that decision, with a majority vote (Dugan, Dugan, and Dugan), was rescinded. It should be noted that April Dugan has been absent from most of the Ambulance Service meetings this year.

As I understand it, the deficiency is being downplayed as the hours short were only a few. But a deficiency it is. Sometimes the rules need to take precedence and in this case, for the Grafton Ambulance Service, for those who are helping the injured and saving lives, that training is clearly important.

I would hope that any of our town employees and volunteers would be professional, and follow the rules, so as not to damage the town. Stepping down as captain for a while would not have been the end of the world.

In addition to the issue of revoked licenses last night, the minutes for the August meeting were apparently revised by people who were not present at the August meeting. Those revisions were approved, again by a majority (Dugan, Dugan, Dugan, and Frost). I know that this action is improper.  It may be illegal. Roberts Rules of Order are clearly not in effect. The “unapproved”, unrevised minutes are included here.

As the Grafton ambulance crew tried to hash things out last night there were personal attacks, expressions of hurt feelings, and more. Sean Frost, Grafton selectman, resigned from the ambulance service.  Videos of the meeting are below.

I hope that this important department of our town can get it’s act together. Proper training, licensing, and following standard business practices like Roberts Rules seem very straightforward.

Sean Frost NH EMS Provider License revocation letter.
Click on the image to see the entire letter.
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August 2014 Grafton Ambulance Draft Minutes
Click on the image to see the entire document.

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Fire House Drama Part 2

Last night’s meeting was big enough to have to relocate to the fire station. How appropriate!

After some initial business Steve Darrow mentioned the “Fire Brews”mailing and made a statement which is included below. Sean, who called in for the meeting, had a colorful response which will be available as soon as I get access to the video to transcribe the comments. i.e. Fire House Drama Part 3!

The bottom line at this point is the town cancelled Joe Brown’s contract, which will have some financial consequences. No work will happen this year. And a new warrant article will go to the voters next year. John Babiarz is sure the “voters will do the right thing again”. I think we’re all better educated now about fire station heating improvements and suspect that the town will be more cautious when discussing and voting on it next year. And people seemed to agree that an independent engineer, with no ties to those involved, should be hired to review and sign off on the specs for the work.

Steve Darrow’s statement:

Recently we all found some “spin” in our mailboxes. There is a different series of events that happened according to many folks who attended the meetings and who took the time to look at the minutes from the meetings, read over the original insufficient RFP submitted by John Babiarz, the following documents prepared by Steve Darrow in preparation for the project and in conjunction with the Town Counsel, rather than one of the competing bidders (Partridge) on the project.

First and foremost – John Babiarz nor Sean Frost ever mentioned that Partridge heating was involved with the design and plan for installation of heating system. Had John Babiarz disclosed this information, Partridge heating would have had to withdraw from the bidding procedure due to a major conflict of interest. The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued decisions regarding showing favoritism. This smacks of favoritism. (for those who need verification on this, go to the Supreme Court or to your legal counsel)

Many residents were deeply concerned with the process of John Babiarz (claiming that he alone designed the system) would specify what type of system would be installed rather than an engineer, someone more qualified. The cost of the heating system was exorbitant and included solar panels that were considered to have such a poor return on investment.

Many in town have stated they feel it is inappropriate to tear up the existing floor as Babiarz and apparently Partridge had decided in their spec plans. That it would be more appropriate to wait and see if the system does indeed fail. John Babiarz’ response to that is “I like to be pro-active” and his response to one concerned resident about the solar panels? “The problem is that no one in this town thinks”

Regardless of many concerns raised, Sean Frost stubbornly insisted that Partridge receive the contract as is. During the process (and many witnessed this) Sean Frost berated the opposing bidder, Smith River, and even questioned his intelligence several times claiming that he knew more about contracts and heating systems than Smith River. His demeanor has remained as it has at most meetings, overbearing, finger wagging and threatening. He made a motion to accept the bid of Partridge, John Babiarz friend and apparently we now find out co-creator of the original RFP. Jennie Joyce seconded but said she felt the solar panels were completely out of line. Steve Darrow voted against, stating that he felt the RFP was inadequate as specified and that the solar panels were a great expense and poor return on investment.

Once Partridge was accepted, Steve Darrow said he would submit the proposal of Partridge to Town counsel. Town counsel came back saying the proposal was completely inadequate and would need to be rewritten. (see attached correspondence) It was rewritten and submitted to Partridge for review. Sean refused to allow Partridge to post a bond and said a “letter of credit” would do. He again stated he was an authority on this. Just this afternoon, our Town Counsel said absolutely wrong and New Hampshire law requires the bond, not a letter of credit.

At this time, Partridge decided his schedule had filled up and declined to take the job. We will never know if he simply did not care for a legal contract that properly protected the town from liability.

At the Selectman meeting where Partridge letter declining contract, was received, selectman agreed (see minutes) to revise the RFP so that it contained the language to allow for more flexibility for the heating contractors to determine what would be necessary to adequately heat the fire department. Again, concerned citizens spoke about the lack of professional planning for such a huge project. Sean Frost stated that “usually you people don’t want to spend money but now you want to spend money on an engineer” According to him it was an expense to be avoided as he had all of the knowledge needed.

At this same meeting Steve Darrow brought up that he thought it would be a good idea to spend some time reaching out to more heating contractors for the second round of bidding. Although it had been posted properly, only two bids were received, one by town resident Joe Brown of Smith River and one by John Babiarz’ friend and apparent co-designer of system, Partridge heating. Steve Darrow suggested sending out the RFP’s requesting bids rather than just posting and also he made another suggestion. Why not reach out to the heating contractor that did the church? During previous conversation with John Babiarz, John mentioned that “someone” had done a “fine job” down at the church. But for some reason, John Babiarz never brought nor asked the office to bring the RFP to that gentleman and invite for a bid on the project. For that matter, Sean Frost lives across the street from Brian Rogers who wondered why he wasn’t contacted. In the meantime, Steve Darrow and Sue started looking for and sending out invitations to bid on the RFP, including one to Kevin McCullough the church contractor. At least one of the contractors sent back a correspondence explaining that he could not bid on such an inadequate set of specs (see attached correspondence).

The bids were due in the office on Monday the 12th. Sean however, chose to personally receive the bid of Kevin McCullough on his person and pulled it out of his back pocket at the Selectman meeting on the 14th.

Sean Frost, without reviewing Smith River bid, made a motion to accept Kevin McCullough’s bid and no one seconded his motion. At that time, Jennie and Steve were looking over Smith River’s proposal, which was much more detailed and had many more options than Kevin McCullough’s one page proposal. Joe Brown was asked several questions concerning the bid. After more discussion and a break for a nonpublic session, Steve Darrow motioned to accept Smith River’s proposal and Jennie Joyce seconded.

As the RFP clearly states, the contract would include the Town Counsel contract along with the proposal as a legal addendum. That construction meetings would occur regularly and include John Babiarz, Contractor and a Selectman.

Sean called both Jennie Joyce and Steve Darrow to report his concerns. A response (see attached) was immediately sent to him, to John Babiarz and the first construction meeting scheduled for Smith River to sign contract. Smith River also sent a correspondence (see attached) addressing concerns. Smith River needed a 7:00 am meeting Monday morning to get one of his subcontractors in right away. The meeting was coordinated by Sue, with John Babiarz and Steve Darrow.

What ensued was unethical and hostile. Rather than requesting a meeting, disclosing an agenda, Sean Frost along with his family and friends decided to crash this meeting. Sean came in before 7:00, chatted with everyone, hid in a back room when Steve Darrow and Joe Smith entered the building at 7:00. Steve Darrow was accosted by the crowd, who had not come to meetings and may not have read the documents prepared that reassured all State and Federal regulations had to be met. That Babiarz could have worked with Smith River to have this project move forward this year.


Fire House Drama

The heating system upgrades to the fire station have taken a new turn. The select board awarded the contract to Grafton resident and heating system expert Joe Brown. Sean Frost, volunteer fire fighter, voted nay while Steve Darrow and Jenny Joyce voted aye. Sean wouldn’t sign the contract but Steve and Jenny did. And then uproar began.

During the meetings about the fire station heating upgrades this reporter, when voicing concerns about expensive solar, was told that there were many meetings and decisions had been made, and the comments were too late for consideration. Well, apparently when the decision goes the other way the same rules do not apply.

Overheard at the fire station, when walking in on the “meeting” mentioned in the attached mailing, John Babiarz telling Selectman Darrow that he would revoke the occupancy permit on the fire station if he doesn’t get the improvements done the way he wants.

This mailing is intriguing in a few ways. It was whipped out in a hurry after the select board decision. It’s looooong. And it says that Babiarz worked with Partridge on the proposal. Hmmmm.

Tomorrow night’s select board meeting should be a doozy. Bring the popcorn!

Fire Brews 1

Fire Brews 2


Slab City Dirt Portion A Dream to Drive On

The dirt portion of Slab City got a facelift a couple of weeks ago.  It is smooth and rut free!  A dream to drive upon this Grafton resident is very grateful. Thanks to Bobby Bassett and his crew!


Solar for Heating at the Grafton Fire Station

The voters approved a warrant article during elections this year.  The warrant article is to replace the ( maybe ) failing radiant floor and improve the heating system.  Specifically:

8) To see if the Town will raise and appropriate the sum of one hundred thirty seven thousand three hundred eighty dollars ($137,380) to repair and upgrade the heating system in the Fire/Ambulance building and to fund this appropriation by withdrawing that amount from the unrestricted fund balance as of December 31, 2012. This amount is the equivalent of the amount the Town received in insurance payments for this purpose. The passage of this article will have no impact on taxation.

It appears that this is more open-ended than this reporter thought.  Included in the proposal submitted by Fire Chief John Babiarz, and approved by the Selectboard, are, for instance, the purchase and mounting of six solar panels for heating.

Two clarifications:  One, my understanding at this writing, is that the funds did not come from insurance payments but rather from a class action settlement.  The pipes used in radiant flooring were found to be defective and the Grafton Fire Department has those pipes.  The settlement is, in part, to compensate for the necessity of replacing them at some point in the future.

Two, the statement that “The passage of this article will have no impact on taxation” isn’t entirely accurate.  In fact, the funds from the class action settlement could have remained in the general fund and been used to reduce the taxpayers burden.  And, the radiant flooring in question could have been replaced and still left a significant amount in the fund.

The solar panels did not need to be part of this endeavor but Babiarz proposed them and the selectboard approved them.  To find out more I called the Hanover Fire Department to find out how theirs were working. I called Hanover, because the winning bidder used them as a reference.

Ross Farnsworth took some time to talk to me about Hanover’s use of solar.  Hanover is very interested in reducing their carbon footprint and a large part of the benefit they get is that citizens see the solar panels on the roof and know that the town is doing something to help.

Hanover uses solar for hot water.  However, the system requires that you utilize all the heat that is generated. So, in summer, when the panels are the most effective, it can be an effort to use as much as is necessary. The water is primarily used to wash out their rigs, for which hot water is critical. Additionally, since the station is on the Appalacian Trail they offer showers and laundry to people using the trails.  In winter the system must be augmented with propane to provide enough hot water. Please note, that if the hot water is not dissipated, excess heat can damage the system, and even cause a catastrophic failure!

Ross said that they are not seeing a great return on their investment.  At the moment he estimates they’ll see a return in 17 to 22 years.  Ross has solar at home but said he would not have done it, if he’d had to pay someone to install it, as it would not have provided enough of a financial benefit.  He had the expertise to install his home system himself.

I’m a big fan of alternative energy – effective alternative energy.  I’m not sure there’s a big benefit for Grafton with solar for heat at the Fire Station.  It’s a not inconsequential expense that may not provide the benefit Babiarz is hoping for.

I wish more information was available at the deliberative session.  And hopefully our selectboard will be thoughtful before signing the pending contract.

For next year’s deliberative session I’ll be channeling Goldie Hawn from Protocol.  ”I’ll be watching you all, like a hawk.”

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