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Massena career firefighters increase code enforcement

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MASSENA — Several of Massena’s career firefighters, now trained in code enforcement, are helping the village address problems with substandard properties.

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 code enforcement, which includes issuing building permits and conducting inspections.

“We are responding to a lot of property issue complaints,” he said. “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 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 firefighters can familiarize themselves with properties, better preparing firefighters for safety problems before entering 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 fire inspections. Notifications indicate what will be covered during the 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 a new set of standard operational guidelines will bring the department up to industry standards.

The career firefighters will now be required to follow a dress code when at the station, identify themselves when they answer the telephone at the fire station, clean the station daily during their down time and keep a log book for firetruck and equipment inventories.

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

“I’ve also been delegating more responsibilities to the senior guys on shifts,” he said. “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.”

“As far as the operations end of it, I don’t see any changes,” he added. “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 proactive approach,” Mr. Hidy told Mr. McGowan at last week’s meeting of the Board of Trustees. “You’re the best in the north country; there’s no question about that.”

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