Killington Select Board clarifies status of KSAR

Dear Editor, 

In response to several letters and articles posted over the last 6+ weeks regarding the transition of Killington Fire and Rescue, First Response, and Killington Search and Rescue, we feel it is necessary to clarify the status of all groups. 

Currently, Killington Fire and Rescue and First Response are operating within the guidelines of the certification level of its members. Killington Search and Rescue has suspended operation temporarily due to the lack of certification and training. As a result of the suspension, many volunteers resigned from service creating the need for new volunteers. 

It is important to remember that Chief Lahart was tasked with developing a roster of personnel to be accepted into the new municipal department. As the volunteer members had not provided the required documentation, equipment logs and certification of said equipment, the Chief placed the operation on hold. This was necessary as in the event of an injury or complaint, the Town did not possess any proof of training or certifications and would, therefore, be liable for placing not only the people requiring rescue but also the rescue personnel at risk. This is not a position in which the Town can allow itself to be placed. 

The Chief intended to reactivate KSAR upon receipt of and/or members becoming certified in the required areas. Killington Search and Rescue is currently accepting member’s applications and has a goal of being active around June 2023. Training for new members has been scheduled and the Town welcomes all applicants, including former members. 

Killington Search and Rescue is a Town entity and a part of the overall Killington Fire and Rescue Department and not an independent group. Given the fact that volunteers have rescinded their applications and are no longer members of KSAR, the continued use of the “KSAR” name to describe their group is misleading and inaccurate. Currently, none of the former members who signed the letter dated March 12, 2023 are members of KSAR and should refrain from depicting themselves as such. 

Finally, we would like to express our disappointment in the manner in which the volunteers have approached their issues. The Town was presented with the letter from the volunteers at the same time it was posted in the paper. This indicates the volunteers had no intention of working to resolve the issues and instead requested the Selectboard allow the group to operate independently but still under the protection of the Town. The Town would still require oversight and need qualified personnel to oversee the program and Chief Lahart is the most qualified individual in our department. 

As part of the complaints, individual accusations were directed at the Chief. The Selectboard voted to deny the request of separating KSAR and gave a vote of confidence to Chief LaHart. The Town takes these personnel accusations seriously and followed our personnel policy to review the accusations, which includes investigating the claims. It is important to note that all conversations and documentation related to personnel issues are confidential. However, it seems there are those who intend to play this out in public to which the Town will not and cannot legally participate. The Town is acutely aware of the sensitivity of the allegations and is continuing to observe all functions of the department. However, in the current climate of expecting to deal with conflicts in the media, some claims can create liability for those casting them. 

In closing, even though there has been disagreement in the transition of the department from private company volunteers to a municipal hybrid paid/volunteer department, we look forward to moving past this development and hope that all involved will proceed to the next phase in their participation whether with the Killington Fire and Rescue Department inclusive of its specialty divisions or in a different capacity. 

Stephen Finneron, Select Board Chairman; Jim Haff, Select Board member; Chris Karr, Select Board member; prepared by Chester Hagenbarth, Town Manager.

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