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Fire siren idea alarms the neighbors

FALLS VILLAGE — A proposal from the Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department to reinstall an emergency siren on town property drew quick criticism from Sue Sweetapple and Colin Chambers of the Falls Village Inn during the March meeting of the Board of Selectmen Monday, March 12.The siren that was on the roof of the Senior Center at 107 Main St. was removed about five years ago because of a leak in the roof, and never replaced.First Selectman Pat Mechare read a letter from John Allyn and Dave Seney (representing the fire department), noting that during the aftermath of the October 2011 snowstorm, with widespread power outages, communications between emergency services volunteers was limited. Pagers could not be recharged, for instance, and cell phones and landlines were sporadic at best.The letter suggested putting a siren back online, perhaps at the town garage.Sweetapple and Chambers said a siren going off in the middle of the night would have a very negative impact on their business.Chambers said he believed that overnight guests at the inn, having experienced the siren, would be reluctant to return.“Even at the town garage it would have an impact,” said Chambers. “We’d really have to consider whether to keep going.”Selectman Greg Marlowe suggested that perhaps a siren at the town garage could be activated only during true emergencies, not for every call.Chambers was admant. “We’ll fight this thing to the end. This is our livelihood here. We’ve planned to be here a very long time.”Mechare said she was attending a fire department meeting the following night and would bring the concerns of the innkeepers, and Marlowe’s suggestion, to the group.Sweetapple and Chambers said they had planned to attend the meeting for a completely different reason, and were taken by surprise by the matter of the siren.They had attended to discuss an idea floated by the Recreation Commission at last month’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, to have a permanent town Christmas tree on the Town Farm property (where the swimming pool is).Margaret Caiati, appearing for the commission, said last month that the idea is to draw attention to the Town Farm property and its possibilities for hiking, cross-country skiing, sledding parties and so on. To avoid detracting from the traditional tree lighting on the town Green, the commission plans to develop a holiday festival for the center of town.The reaction of the selectmen last month was cautious. Selectman Chuck Lewis said he thought it was a good idea, “but I wouldn’t want to see the town Green abandoned. It’s good for businesses” when the tree lighting occurs.Marlowe said last month, “It’s critical to keep the flow into the downtown,” and Mechare said that while she had “mixed feelings” about moving the tree lighting from the Green, she thought the proposal worthy of further study.The selectmen’s views hadn’t changed Monday night, and Sweetapple and Chambers argued for keeping the tree lighting ceremony on the Green.“It’s quintessential New England,” said Sweetapple.She said that regular guests at the inn, who have a child at Hotchkiss, happened to be in town for last year’s tree lighting, were impressed, and indicated they would return, with friends, just for the ceremony.Chambers said he was favorably impressed by a tree lighting last year at Trinity Lime Rock, and had visions of enhancing the Falls Village event.“We need this in town. We need every event we can get our hands on.”Lewis said that the business people in town should represent themselves at the next meeting of the Recreation Commission.He also said he didn’t think the commission was trying to infringe on tradition. He noted that in recent years the commission was largely inactive, but was now revitalized and coming up with ideas.Finally, Lewis said he didn’t see the tree lighting question as an “either/or” proposition.The selectmen approved a modification to the lease of 107 Main St. (ground floor), home of P.D. Walsh’s Country Store, reducing her rent for the next year from $1,500 to $900. “We’ll give her a chance to spring out of this bad economy,” said Mechare.The selectmen also authorized Mechare to make inquiries about the cost of installing the right sink, countertop and floor to enable Walsh to sell a limited number of food items.The selectmen approved the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission to make alternate member Vincent Inconiglios a regular member, which leaves two alternate slots open.

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