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Councilors convene, discuss BPS and fallen firefighter

After attending fallen Boston Fire Lieutenant Kevin Kelley’s funeral Wednesday, Boston City Councilors addressed the need for revision of out-of-date fire department equipment and crumbling school infrastructure.

In its second meeting of the new year, City Council convened late Wednesday afternoon after paying its respects to Kelley, the driver of a fire truck that crashed into a Mission Hill building last Friday. The public attention Kelley’s untimely death brought to local firefighters has also shed light on the poor condition of some Boston Fire Department equipment.’

Councilor At-Large Sam Yoon presented a resolution to change Boston’s policy of replacing trucks based on their age rather than their amount of use. Kelley’s Mission Hill firehouse is among the busiest in the city, Yoon said.

‘[I submit that the] policy be thoroughly reexamined, and that we at City Council be able to review exactly the maintenance and repair protocol and policy so we can prevent another tragedy like this from ever happening again.’

His fellow councilors agreed and urged that the resolution should move forward.

Councilor At-Large Stephen Murphy said the policy for replacement of vehicles should take both age and use into account.

‘It probably shouldn’t be an either-or policy for replacement of vehicles,’ Murphy said. ‘Something should be developed whereby there’s a combination.’

Boston Public Schools also need to be better maintained, councilors said.

Embattled Councilor Chuck Turner (Roxbury) presented a resolution saying that schools are suffering from poor maintenance, a day after newly-elected Council President Michael Ross ended a Council probe into Turner’s indictments because it was too expensive, but did not give Turner a committee chairmanship.

Turner’s resolution requested funding for school repairs in response to President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed federal stimulus package, which could be passed as early as February. The Obama-Biden Transition team has said that $25 million will be given’ for schools and repairs of bridges and roads, even though billions are needed to refurbish schools, Turner said.

‘I was really astounded when I saw that number given the fact that in 1998, ten years ago, the congressional committee said that it would cost $112 billion to bring all the public schools, just the public schools, of America up to safe standards,’ he said.

‘If we want our children to be well-educated, then we have to make sure that there are at least buildings there that we can send our children to where they can feel comfortable and safe . . . and that’s not true here in Massachusetts or across the country,’ Turner said.

Councilor Charles Yancey (Mattapan, North Dorchester) said he was concerned that high school students are taking their classes in buildings not designed for high school education. He also noted that the city of Boston has not built a new high school for nearly 30 years, during the Carter administration.

‘Many [high schools] do not have gymnasiums. They don’t have an auditorium. But worse than that: science labs, cafeterias,’ Yancey said. ‘Very basic amenities that high school students should be able to take for granted.’

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