Grants bring needed equipment

MERRIMACK – The items may seem esoteric, but they filled a slate of real needs in the police and fire departments.

For example, after the town received federal money to buy hazardous-materials suits, police officers discovered they needed special nylon holsters that can be decontaminated to wear over the suits.

Another example are “chair stairs” that run on a track for use by firefighters and EMTs. That need arose when emergency personnel, responding to a recent call, struggled to remove a 600-pound patient from a building.

“We need to upgrade our equipment in case we have to carry somebody down (a flight of stairs) who’s maybe heavier than the average person,” Fire Chief William Pepler told the Board of Selectmen on Thursday.

Selectmen held a series of mini-public hearings on $20,699 in grants and donations for the Police and Fire departments. Afterward, the board approved accepting each of the seven grants by a 3-0 vote. Selectmen David McCray and Norman Carr were absent.

Among the grants: two from Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser at its plant off Daniel Webster Highway.

One Bud grant was for $2,000 to buy tools and equipment for the Fire Department’s forestry truck. The other was $2,000 to buy the holsters and belts for police officers to wear over haz-mat suits.

The special holsters were needed because once a police officer has the protective suit on, he doesn’t have access to his weapon if it’s worn inside.

“Unfortunately, when you put those suits on, you have to be duct-taped,” Deputy Police Chief Paul Stavenger said.

The other grants:

– $6,000 from the Abbie Griffin Memorial Fund to buy five terminals as part of an evidence bar-coding system for the Police Department.

– $7,000 from the same fund to buy two stair-chairs, plus accessories and cylinders for the Fire Department’s self-contained breathing apparatus.

– $2,500 from distribution of drug-related property seizures for software so police radios can be programmed to communicate with other departments, like Bedford, on a digital radio system.

– $149 from the Merrimack Lions Club for police to buy a television and VCR.

– $1,050 from Fidelity Investments for office stairs and an abdominal crunch exercise machine for firefighters.

The last item prompted a light-hearted exchange between selectmen Carolyn Whitlock and Tony Pellegrino

“Can selectmen use the exercise equipment?” Whitlock asked.

“That wasn’t a shot at me, was it?” Pellegrino said.

“No, it was meant to liven up the meeting,” she replied.

“It worked,” he said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or