Wareham Fire District voters to face $12.5 million question
Funding a proposed multi-million dollar water treatment plant, a new rescue truck and a combined $10.6 million budget for both the Wareham Fire Department and Water District will be up for debate on Monday, April 10.
On that day, the Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters who live in the district are allowed to attend and participate.
Read on to learn more about some of the issues that will be decided.
Water Treatment Plant
Topping the agenda in the minds of voters and district officials is a $12.5 million request to build a new water treatment plant, needed to reduce iron and manganese levels in district wells, officials say.
Those high levels cause water discoloration and, in the case of manganese, health problems. As a result, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a health advisory. Currently, three out of seven district wells are unusable due to manganese levels.
Water District Superintendent Andrew Reid said the district has undertaken temporary treatment measures; however, that places a burden on the other wells, and it is not a long-term solution.
Approving the treatment plant will require a two-thirds majority vote at the district meeting. The Board of Water Commissioners is recommending passage of the measure.
Additionally, department officials are seeking approval for a $5.5 million item that would install a system which would use ultraviolet disinfection to reduce bacteria and the amount of chlorine used to treat water. That proposal will only be voted on if the water treatment plant agenda item passes.
The department has posted a comprehensive memorandum on its website that answers a multitude of questions regarding both proposals. To read it, click here.
The Wareham Fire Department will have a handful of funding requests before voters, including one that would pay for two, additional full time firefighters and a new rescue truck.
Wareham Fire Chief Robert McDuffy said both requests are crucial for the department, which has seen its call volume increase dramatically.
“Our runs keep climbing every year. We’re getting busier and busier,” said McDuffy. “Little Wareham is growing rapidly.”
In the past, the department had a good mix of full time and on-call firefighters, McDuffy said. But today, employers are reluctant to allow on-call firefighters to respond during work hours, McDuffy said.
McDuffy is requesting $150,000 for the firefighters. That would cover salary and equipment costs, such as uniforms, boots and other materials.
Paying for a new rescue truck, which would replace the department’s current 1986 model, is a $795,000 request. McDuffy said buying the truck is on schedule with the department’s 10-year capital plan, which forecasts major purchases.
McDuffy described the new truck as a “multi-faceted tool” that would provide firefighters with a variety of resources when responding to calls, “such as vehicle extrications, dive support operations, technical rescues, structure fires, hazardous materials incidents and assistance with the EMS.”
As for the old truck, it will still be used by the department’s dive team.
Another agenda item, this one costing $65,000, would 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.
“If we put our head in the sand now it’s going to catch up with us,” he said.
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.
Fire, Water Department Budgets
Voters will be asked to approve a $6,168,900 total budget for the fire department, which marks a $580,366 (10.3 percent) increase compared to last year’s budget. For the water department, voters will be asked to approve a $4,588,006 budget. That number is up $112,312 compared to last year, or a 2.5 percent increase.
Some factors driving the larger fire department budget are insurance rate hikes and salary increases.
Most of the water department’s budget increase is attributed to salary and wage hikes. The salary and wage line item is up $83,384 compared to last year. The department found some savings under the purchases of services line item as consulting and engineering fees dropped $100,000 compared to last year.