New rescue truck, additional firefighters approved at district meeting

By Matthew Bernat | Apr 11, 2017

Voters at the Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting opened their wallets and purses for the fire department on Monday night, agreeing to fund three big ticket requests.

The department got the OK to purchase a new $795,000 rescue truck, hire two additional full-time firefighters at a cost of $150,000 and spend $65,000 to treat rust on its signature piece of equipment, its ladder truck.

Approval came after voters questioned whether Fire Chief Robert McDuffy was spending ratepayer’s funds wisely.

“District taxes have quadrupled in the last 20 years, and you might want to take that into consideration,” resident Jane Donahue told McDuffy.

Other residents asked about the need for a new rescue truck at this time, with the potential for replacing the ladder truck possibly looming in the near future.

McDuffy described the new truck as a “rolling command post” that would allow firefighters to recover from dangerous and taxing situations in a climate controlled environment.

“The most important piece of equipment we have is our firefighters,” said McDuffy, adding that the new truck would let them cool down in hot conditions and warm up in freezing temperatures.

“I just struggle with the cost of everything,” said resident Bill Heaney. He added that in light of a proposed 12.5 percent increase to the fire department’s budget compared to last year, costs were creeping higher for taxpayers.

McDuffy noted he must balance fiscal responsibility with firefighter safety. Purchasing the rescue truck accomplishes both, he said.

“Our fleet is getting older,” said McDuffy. “It’s my duty to make sure our fleet is maintained so you as a taxpayer get the maximum performance out of this equipment.”

The new truck will replace a 1986 model currently being used by the department. Also, buying the new truck is on schedule with the department’s 10-year capital plan, which forecasts major purchases.

The $65,000 request will pay for corrosion control of the department’s ladder truck. McDuffy said the truck is a 1985 model in fair condition, but road salt is starting to eat away at the undercarriage. Over the ladder truck’s life, the department has invested at least $25,000 for body work. He noted that the cost to replace the truck entirely would be between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.

Comments (11)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2017 14:18

If these trucks were not sent of for every skinned knee and grocery store trip they wouldn't need replaced as often as they do



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 11, 2017 14:37

Sphere - Did you know that by policy some towns limit their purchase of fire trucks to only those which are refurbished and do so with great success?



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Apr 12, 2017 10:55

Hmm 32 year old ladder truck outstanding. ... But don't ya think its time for a new one or a newer model . You can do all that rust work and still have your ladder fail it's safety inspection.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 12, 2017 13:09

We don't need no stinking ladder truck or rescue truck. What we need is the Districts to be disbanded and the Town to step up and merge the equipment. Didn't Onset just buy a brand new ladder truck that would fit in its garage. Garage it in Wareham and slash the duplication and overstaffing. We are being taxed out of house and home with this criminal nonsense.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 12, 2017 13:49

Sphere - I agree the two districts should be merged and brought under the umbrella of town government, but here are a couple of reasons why I don't think it will ever happen:

 

1) Keeping the districts separate from Town government, prevents their cost from being calculated into the tax rate which keeps the tax rate appearing much lower than it actually is, an initial draw to those who might invest in property in Wareham

 

2) If the districts were under the umbrella of Town government, any borrowing (such as 12.5 mil) would have to be approved twice, first by Town Meeting and then by a paper ballot election which wouldn't be too pleasing to the powers that be in the districts

 

3) Combined under the Town umbrella the districts would have to comply with prop 2 1/2 regarding annual budgetary increases - powers that be wouldn't like that either

 

4) The health insurance benefits that some district employees/elected officials currently enjoy, likely would be dramatically cut if under the town's umbrella

 

5) There will always be people outraged by the current Water/ Fire dual district issues, but there will likely never be people willing to publicly step up to the plate and initiate and fund a process by which the issue would be studied, pursued, and brought to a vote

 

All those who disagree with #5 above, please step up to the plate



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 12, 2017 14:07

Andrea, Not sure how they calculate the tax rates appearance but when I get my tax bill its included. Its a service no different than the Police and should be under Towns umbrella. 2,3 and 4 are exactly the reasons they should be brought under the Towns umbrella. The selectman should get this merger into the Town umbrella investigated as I think once the Towns people see on paper the cost savings if "district system" is done away with would demand its elimination. A public safety office should be formed and encompass Police, Fire, Ambulance and Harbor services. Water districts would fall under the DPW. The waste with all this duplication is truly a disservice to the Townspeople.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 12, 2017 17:01

Sphere: Wareham Real Estate Tax Bills are itemized into the following categories:

 

1) Tax (real estate tax currently computed at $11.25 per $1000 of evaluation) ...if you look up Massachusetts Town Tax Rates online this is what is quoted as Wareham's Tax rate

 

2) CPA tax  Community Preservation Act voter authorized surcharge on tax bill...don't know the rate Wareham calculates this at but by law it can not be greater than 3%

 

3) Wareham Fire District currently quoted at $2.20 per $1000 of evaluation

 

Or if an Onset resident Fire is currently quoted at $2.73 per $1000 of evaluation.

 

The three itemized categories are added together to create the "Total (annual) Tax and Assessments," the sum of which is then divided by 4 to create quarterly tax bills.

 

Both water and sewer are billed separately from Real Estate Tax Bills.

 

Most Massachusetts towns have Fire Departments under the umbrella of their town government, and thus include the Fire Departments in their town budget and the setting of their tax rates.

 

Bourne which includes their Fire Department in their Town Budget has a 2017 tax rate of $10.30 per $1000 of evaluation.

 

Wareham which does not include the Fire District in its Town Budget has a tax rate of $11.25 per $1000 of evaluation. If the Fire District was under the umbrella of Town Government, and it's cost was thus included in the Town's budget the actual tax rate would be $11.25 (current town tax) plus $2.20  (current Fire District cost ) to a total of $13.25 per $1000 of evaluation.

 

The appearance of a tax rate of  $11.25 per $1000 of evaluation would appear more attractive to those considering investing in property, if they mistakenly assumed that Wareham like most towns included their Fire Department cost in the quoted annual tax rate.

 

If you want to have some browsing fun the following link lists the 2017 tax rates for all town's in Massachusetts:

 

http://www.heislerandmattson.com/massachusetts-property-tax-rates-2017-city-towns/

 

 

 



Posted by: baron1701@yahoo.com | Apr 13, 2017 08:54

We need to get rid of this District system. How can we vote this out? I dont like getting a separate tax for water / fire.



Posted by: Snowman | Apr 13, 2017 09:31

Thank you Andrea for your clear and concise explanation of our tax system vs our neighbors.  I had never seen it presented this way.



Posted by: Linda | Apr 13, 2017 23:46

The Districts are basically private.  They serve you well in supplying water and protecting your home or at an accident.  If the towns were to take it over - they would screw it up.   We used to have trash pickup and garbage pick up.  Done by bid.   Wareham screwed it up and now you pay out of town companies.      School bus transportation.  Done by bid.  Wareham screwed it up and you are paying so much more than you did with contractors.   Leave the districts alone.  No, not happy with McDuffy wanting all the horns and whistles, but it's up to us to go to the meetings to vote him down.

 



Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 14, 2017 07:17

Major things to vote on should be on paper ballot not some Monday night meeting that most of the town with responsibilities and families can't attend...

...oh wait, that's how they want it.



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