The Budget and New Fire Truck for South Thomaston
The South Thomaston Budget Committee has passed their budget, it awaits final approval by the Board of Selectmen. I am assuming this will happen at the February 11 meeting. For the most part the budget hearings were uneventful and the board members are proud that they kept costs to nearly no increase in taxes. This due to higher anticipated revenue sharing from the state. It still depends on the school budget before one can say no property tax increase for this coming year. New Budget $1,095,000.
Some items on the budget deserve discussion, the purchase of a new fire truck, revisions to the fire station inclusive of electric door openers (additional ones) and the construction of a fire escape to meet code. This is for the upstairs meeting room in the fire station and they want to add a hazmat shower. The construction of a second set of stairs is controversial. This due mainly to the feeling it is an unnecessary expense as there was already a second stairway which was taken out to make room for the new trailer inside the station. There is conflicting information about this; according to some parties the room was never up to code, then one hears it depends on the use of the room as to whether the second set of stairs are necessary. A copy of the fire code was requested but an e-mail from fire marshal was supplied stating not to code for intended use, which still does not settle the matter. Then there is the question of who gave permission to remove the stairs to make room for the new trailer in the first place. The cost for this adventure is about $21,000. $4,500 for an architectural study of the building for best option in construction of stairs and about $17,00 for the construction of stairs and shower. The budget committee approved a reduced amount for the stairs only and that will be a line item subject to voter approval as is the new truck.
Lets discuss the new truck, the fire chief is advocating another brand of truck which is cheaper than last years, $100,000 cheaper. I question the wisdom of this purchase as again the main argument for it is it fits in the 30 year equipment replacement plan, and the truck will be easier to man and operate with more room for gear. My objection stems not from the necessity for a new truck but from the available water supply. This same problem was discussed in the 2013 Review of the Fire Department and Emergency Ambulance Service. See page 21 & 22 for recommendations and 30 & 31 for definitions and standards. Did you know South Thomaston has a PPC rating of 8B out of a scale of 1 -10 (see page 15)? It would be a 9 except the fire department is considered to have a superior fire protection delivery service except for the lack of water. This has a huge impact on homeowner and business fire insurance rates. The reports suggest developing a better water and/or alternative type supply.
I have to ask why buy a new truck when the fire calls for last year stood at 5. Wouldn't it be a better use of funds to reinvest said money in developing a better water supply system for fighting fires in town? This would be of better benefit to residents and better for the future of the community. I did some web searching and found that there are portable fire pumps, fire boats and smaller rapid response units available. Portable high pressure water pumps capable of nearly 1,000 Gallons Per Minute sell for about $32,000/ each. Suggested use is to create a water feed system, some even float so can be placed directly into a pond or other source. Maybe consider a fire boat which would be good for shoreline or island properties. I suggest these as alternatives and believe these should be looked into in more detail before we buy another truck where the reason for purchase is ease of use and a 30 year equipment replacement plan.