Uxbridge los­ing an­other long­time chief

Fire Chief Wil­liam Kessler step­ping aside to as­sume post in Men­don

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSEPH FITZGER­ALD jfitzger­ald@woonsock­et­call.com

UXBRIDGE — Seven months af­ter los­ing its long­time po­lice chief, the town of Uxbridge is set to bid farewell to its long­time fire chief, Wil­liam T. Kessler, who is leav­ing to take on a new role as fire chief in Men­don.

Kessler, Uxbridge’s fire chief since 2012, was ap­pointed by the Men­don se­lect­men at a meet­ing Tues­day. He will of­fi­cially as­sume his new du­ties in Men­don in De­cem­ber.

Kessler is leav­ing seven months af­ter the de­par­ture of long­time Po­lice Chief Jef­fery A. Lourie, who left in Jan­uary to take a sim­i­lar po­si­tion in West­bor­ough. Lourie served as a de­tec­tive lieu­tenant in Auburn be­fore be­ing ap­pointed as Uxbridge’s chief of po­lice in 2013. Lourie is widely cred­ited with bol­ster­ing the depart­ment’s com­mu­nity polic­ing pro­gram, ex­pand­ing the depart­ment’s pres­ence on so­cial me­dia and bring­ing in the depart­ment’s first K9.

Kessler is the lat­est Uxbridge town of­fi­cial to call it quits. In just the past six months, the town has lost sev­eral key em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing the town ac­coun­tant, trea­surer/col­lec­tor and con­ser­va­tion agent. Kessler had been an Uxbridge fire­fighter and deputy fire chief since 2000 be­fore he was ap­pointed chief in 2012. A grad­u­ate of Bryant Col­lege with a

de­gree in ac­count­ing, Kessler was the driv­ing force be­hind the con­struc­tion of the town’s new $9.25 mil­lion cen­tral street fire sta­tion, which opened ear­lier this year.

Work on the 14,365-square-foot fire sta­tion, which was built on a re­con­fig­ured site next to Town Hall on South Main Street, be­gan in Au­gust 2016. The project in­cluded the raz­ing of the old fire sta­tion and con­struc­tion of an en­tirely new build­ing, com­plete with five drive-thru bays.

An­nual elec­tion vot­ers in May of 2015 ap­proved a debt ex­clu­sion to fund the new fire sta­tion, which was the sec­ond of two votes needed to move the project for­ward. The plan was ap­proved first by spe­cial town meet­ing vot­ers who were asked to con­sider two com­pan­ion ar­ti­cles re­lated to the new fire sta­tion pro­posal, both of which were passed on near-unan­i­mous votes. The first asked vot­ers to ap­prove and fund con­struc­tion for the new sta­tion, while the sec­ond sought ap­proval to mod­ify zon­ing by­laws and al­low mu­nic­i­pal build­ings (the new fire sta­tion) in the busi­ness and in­dus­trial zones.

The 14,365-square-foot sta­tion re­places the for­mer 6,600-square-foot sta­tion on South Main Street, which town of­fi­cials say was out­dated and un­able to house mod­ern fire trucks and fire­fight­ing equip­ment. Ap­prox­i­mately $94,500 in fund­ing for site assess­ment and schematic de­signs for the new fa­cil­ity came from the es­tate of Vir­ginia and Lester Taft with the spe­cific di­rec­tion that it be used to fund a build­ing project.

The new sta­tion has five drive-thru bays ca­pa­ble of hous­ing the depart­ment’s cur­rent ap­pa­ra­tus plus a lad­der truck. The new sta­tion in­cludes a meet­ing room for 24 peo­ple and a ra­dio and server room to house the town’s com­puter and phone servers and equip­ment for bet­ter se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion. More im­por­tantly, the new build­ing will al­low the Fire Depart­ment to pur­chase stan­dard fire ve­hi­cles in­stead of ve­hi­cles that needed to be cus­tom built to fit in­side the cur­rent sta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to town of­fi­cials, the new sta­tion was de­signed to meet the depart­ment’s needs for the next 30 to 40 years.

Kessler was also among the army of fire­fight­ers who fought a fire of gi­gan­tic pro­por­tions on July 21, 2007 at the Ber­nat Mills on De­pot Road. The sprawl­ing mill com­plex was re­cently ren­o­vated to host 65 shops and busi­nesses. All of the busi­nesses were said to be thriv­ing at the lo­ca­tion. The spec­tac­u­lar fire be­gan in the early morn­ing hours, and fi­nally showed it­self about three hours later, at 6 a.m. The fire, de­spite the best ef­forts of an army of fire­fight­ers and mil­lions of dol­lars in ap­pa­ra­tus, swal­lowed the mill up and de­stroyed vir­tu­ally ev­ery inch of the com­plex. Ex­ten­sive mu­tual aid was sum­monsed from all over the states of Mass­a­chu­setts and Rhode Is­land to bring the fire un­der con­trol. The fire raged for most of the day be­fore be­ing brought un­der con­trol in the evening hours. Crews re­mained on scene for the bet­ter part of the next week to pro­vide over­haul op­er­a­tions on the huge com­plex.

Kessler is also a storm chaser and van driver for Sil­ver Lin­ing Tours, a Colorado-based com­pany of­fer­ing storm-chas­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy ex­cur­sions across the plains from Texas to North Dakota.

Kessler

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