Towns hail Hadley’s first responder quarantine plans

  • The Hampton Inn & Suites in Greenfield is one of the places that first responders can be housed if they have come into contact with COVID-19. An unidentified hotel in Hadley is also being used by area communities for a similar purpose. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 5/3/2020 6:40:50 PM

Eleven towns have signed on to an agreement spearheaded by Hadley officials that allows first responders who could potentially contract COVID-19 to stay in a Hadley motel.

Officials with the Hadley fire and police departments developed the agreement in collaboration with other western Massachusetts communities, including Easthampton and Southwick.

“It became very clear that there was a need for all of our first responder departments and agencies to have the ability to provide a safe, secure and centrally located facility in the event of an exposure to one of our responders that does not allow for them to go home to their families until they are tested and confirmed negative,” Hadley town officials wrote in a statement.

Any town can sign on to the agreement, but once a town has signed, it must start paying for five rooms at the motel and related cleaning.

Town Administrator David Nixon told the Select Board at its April 15 meeting that Hadley expedited a procurement process after Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel developed the plan for having the motel available to first responders.

Nixon added that the “hotel families” in town were responsive to the plan, though the hotel being used will not be identified due to safety concerns. At least 75 percent of the costs are expected to be reimbursable through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Hadley Select Board member Christian Stanley praised Spanknebel for creating the arrangement, which by mid-April was already being used by seven first responders.

“He really helped our community and all the surrounding communities,” Stanley said. “A lot of credit goes to him.”

Greenfield is one of the communities that has signed on, according to Fire Chief Robert Strahan.

“Whenever there’s a situation where a first responder needs to be isolated or quarantined — but especially, isolated — we work with them to figure out what suits them best,” he said.

Strahan said for Greenfield’s first responders who prefer to not isolate at home — or can’t — they have the option to isolate at the Hadley motel, or at the Greenfield Hampton Inn & Suites, which the department also has arrangements with.

“It’s really tailored to what the first responder’s needs are,” Strahan said.

In the early stages of the pandemic, he said, the department had a few firefighters who were exposed and were able to isolate in a local hotel for 14 days. Another individual chose to isolate at home.

Currently, he said all firefighters have been cleared and are in good health.

The Conway Select Board reviewed the agreement with Hadley at an April board meeting, but ultimately decided — at the recommendation of Fire Chief Robert Baker — not to sign it at the current time.

Instead, the board approved the last-minute signing of the agreement, were the need for quarantine facilities to arise.

Staff writer Scott Merzbach added to this report.




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