Resident demands transparency from Onset Fire District leadership

Nov 10, 2017

To the Editor:

I, and many others, learned a great deal at the spring annual meeting of the Onset Fire District. We learned that we pay 99 percent of the health insurance for employees, and that we pay the Town of Wareham a percentage of the tax base to send out bills. This amount increases as the taxes increase, regardless of the number of bills processed.

Since then, I have learned that the Prudential Committee has not investigated any cost savings from bringing the billing in-house or bidding it out to an outside contractor.  I learned that they ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters’ union without knowing the actual cost of negotiated increases in wages, longevity and stipends. I learned that they have paid Plymouth County to help them hire contractors for the new firehouse. I also learned that the town administrator gave them a one sentence memorandum saying that the town is not going to discuss the Hammond School properties for a new firehouse.

In attending meetings of the building committee and the Prudential Committee it was made abundantly clear that there is no intention to increase transparency in the Fire District Prudential Committee, and any suggestion that this is necessary was met with anger and name-calling.  The chairman called me “a disease.”  A citizen who volunteered to be on the building committee last week was told no, even though that committee is hiring a management company and “starting over” with architects and plans.

The only way to make a change is at the ballot box. We deserve informed members who understand that they are the representatives of the taxpayers and that they have an obligation to act responsibly on our behalf. These members are compensated, and we increased their compensation at the annual meeting. Their term expirations are not easily publicly available, however.

There will be a vote on Nov. 21 to approve the contract spending reached with Local 2810. There will be a salary increase of 2 percent retroactive to July 2017, a 2.5 percent increase to the salary schedule in 2018 and a 3 percent increase on top of that in 2019. There was an increase to the longevity payments, a sick leave bank created, and an increase to stipends for professional certifications. The committee admittedly did not cost this out, nor did they discuss increased costs in 2018 for health insurance premiums. The Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security was zero in 2016,  0.2 percent  in 2017, and will be 2.0 percent for 2018. This is not a mention for or against these increases, only a plea that we be given a full accounting of what we are voting on.

This is in no way a complaint about the services provided in our approximately 4-square-mile fire district. The Town of Wareham has had no responsibility for fire protection since 2000, and the two fire departments do an outstanding job.  The governing body in Onset is separate and apart from the firefighters, except that member Pamela Pike is a call firefighter. I am urging full transparency with meetings televised and minutes posted online, and much more participation from the taxpayers. We will soon have a multi-million dollar facility that will no longer be in Onset Village, and there are decisions of great consequences to be made.

Lisa Morales, Onset

Comments (24)
Posted by: Knocked for six | Nov 10, 2017 19:17

Lisa you need a fact checker! Though I do understand your frustration.

Posted by: mgoodell | Nov 11, 2017 06:50

Saying she needs a fact checker is an understatement.  Where does she get her information???  If she "knows" all she's stated then how on earth can she complain there's no transparency? 

The taxpayers do not pay 99% of Insurance premiums for the employees.

The Onset Fire District has always paid the Town of Wareham a stipend for processing the tax bills and collecting payment.  The voters approve it every year.

To state the Prudential Committee would negotiate a contract without knowing the cost is absurd.

The Town of Wareham has not had responsibility for Fire Service in Onset since 2000????  The Onset Fire District was formed in 1890...a few years before 2000.

I have read your blog of misinformation  call "Onset All Together".  I can't figure out what your objective is.  You spout out items as if they were fact in a hope that it will be believed.  Either you intentionally misinterpret facts to cause problems or you do not listen when items are presented.  Either way, you are a toxin to the system, not an asset. 

I could easily rebut your other statements of fact but I'm hoping the readers get the gist.



Posted by: Newlyaresident | Nov 11, 2017 10:16

M, if the coverage rate isn’t 99% what is it.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Nov 11, 2017 12:50

1890 ... Hmmm horse driven wagons ... Get with the times . One WAREHAM One DEPARTMENT

Posted by: SammieJfive | Nov 11, 2017 14:40

What I have a problem with is the name calling. Being called a "disease" or a "toxin to the system" sounds like a childish way to address someone trying to find out simple information. Is there a hidden agenda? When someone who attends these meetings, trying to simply find out information as to how their tax dollars are being spent is met with a defensive attitude and name calling, just plain good common sense tells me that someone is hiding something. I agree with Newly. What is the coverage rate? You can't refute something, MGOODELL, without coming back with the correct figure to back up your argument. Then, when NEWLY asked what it is, no answer. Let's please get rid of the "good ole boys" mentality, and move forward into the future. I, too, would be interested in the "correct" answers to your defense of the system M. Name calling is not acceptable as an answer. 

Posted by: Mike | Nov 11, 2017 18:24

You need to make them give you line item articles to vote on.

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Nov 11, 2017 22:33

Note this is nothing in relation to the fine service provided by the Fire and Water Department folks. This is about governance.

Knocked, please help correct any facts, much appreciated. MGOODELL is the assistant to the clerk-treasurer and therefore should be able to provide all of the facts. She should also be disciplined for name-calling a taxpayer in a public forum.  At the annual meeting, we were told the District pays 99% of premiums and they had to reduce it from 100%. I have filed a FOIA request to get the “facts.” I submitted a written request to Chairman Kleuber along with a printout of all of the Onset All Together posts regarding the District, and asked him to correct any errors of fact and I would print an erratum. No response. I asked at the October 26th meeting the total cost of the negotiated increase. The answer was “I suppose we could ask Mary to cost it out.” They did in fact ratify the increases without knowing what they cost. This is on the record.  The amount of the one year increase was provided at the November 9 meeting “because someone asked for it.” The timing of and need for a Special Meeting was entirely in the Prudential Committe’s purview: they tabled and put off the MOA reached months ago due to their attorney’s lack of response on drafting then disseminating the agreement. They could have ratified a few days later and held the meeting the following week, if in fact such a meeting is necessary. The union did not expect such a move.  I called several other towns and the state: if they held a special meeting every time they settled a contract we’d be meeting many times a year, and the PC claims they did not overspend on what we approved in the spring. This is all on the record, which of course you can’t see without a FOIA request. My comments, and other citizens, are incomplete or not existent in Ms Goodell’s minutes as approved by the PC.

In the By-Laws of the Onset Fire District dated May 19, 2014, under Important Historical Notes, number 12, states in part at the Special District Meeting in February 2000 the District...annexed areas of the town...The Town was no longer obligated to provide fire protection to any area of the Town of Wareham. This is recorded as Chapter 106 of the Acts of 2000, approved on June 17, 2000.  Ms  Goodell please explain your comments.

Ms. Goodell also participated in the PC’s illegal decision not to allow citizens to submit an article to the warrant for the special meeting as provided in the bylaws and MGL VII, c. 48, §66.  If a Plymouth County Superior Court Judge agrees, they will have to reopen the warrant.

The money they will ask us to approve for the repair of well four cannot, as I understand it, be used from the source they requested. That money must be used to lower our rates or Extend the current water system, not repair. That money must come from the $100,000 just released to the water commissioners under threat of a lawsuit. Any such vote may be deemed illegal. We could, for instance, with a petition of only 50 rate payers, put on the warrant to establish a reduced rate for people 65 and over who fall below 80% of the federal poverty level as other water district do.  But we are blocked from submitting articles.

At 6:00 PM on the 21st there is a separate meeting to decide whether residential and commercial rates remain identical. For instance, should a big-box store or motel pay the same rate (and potentially write off as a business expense) as an individual home owner? Did you know we have a choice?

The clerk-treasurer stated the meeting on the 21st will last 15-20 minutes. They expect no push-back from the taxpayers, even if anyone who does not work for the District shows up.  They will then “reconvene” at Stevie’s bar they said on the record.

These folks are compensated, not volunteers, and handle multiple millions of dollars. Yet they will not even reveal the expiration dates of their terms. The meetings need to be televised to prevent this kind of nonsense.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant for any “disease” Melissa Goodell. Look on for links to unedited minutes as approved by the PC, which I have to FOIA to receive on your behalf. Nobody should have to struggle this hard to have public information go to the tax paying public. Onset, please come to the Nov. 21 meeting at the VFW. Anyone can attend, but only voters on the rolls can vote.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 12, 2017 06:02

Onsettogether that is a nice article. I believe your reference to the use of free  cash only applies to thewater department so you need to know who's free cash they are using. Good luck getting a straight answer to that.    a

Posted by: cranky pants | Nov 12, 2017 08:26

I got two words..



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Nov 12, 2017 11:53

Do away with the District system, It is a system that is not benefitting the town but only those who a part of it. Its a blob of corruption.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 12, 2017 19:25

You don't want the board of selectmen setting your water rate,and there are things wrong with the fire district but you can correct them all by going to the district meeting and voting the corrections!

Posted by: Rosebud | Nov 13, 2017 09:16

I, too, agree that there should be only one Wareham fire department.

As for the other accusations, one can contact the Attorney General's office for advice on public meeting laws.

Posted by: WWareham resident | Nov 13, 2017 09:29

Onsettogether, great response, thank you.


To now know that MGOODELL works in the clerk-treasurers office her response infuriates me. Calling a tax payer names in a public forum is not only grounds for discipline but possibly termination.

Just who do you think you are anyway?


MGOODELL if you want to disagree with someone that is your right,  but to just say "you're wrong" without any facts to back up your statement is ridiculous and completely uncalled for, especially from a Town employee.  To call someone a "toxin to the system" for questioning Town Leadership is unacceptable, even more so from someone who works in the Clerk-treasurers office. You are a real class act (insert sarcasm)!


At the very least you owe Ms. Morales a very public apology and then maybe, just maybe you'll get it. This is a small town and we should all try to get along but I honestly don't know what you were trying to accomplish with your fact less pointless post other than to come across like the disrespectful public employee you seem to be.

I truly hope you are disciplined. I'm so fed up  with elitists know it all who make statements based on no fact that I'll go as far to say you should be relieved of your Town Taxpayer fundedposition that and that's its', very publicly, reported in print.

Posted by: cranky pants | Nov 13, 2017 10:34

I totally agree, name calling isn't a great practice to begin with... But hearing it come from someone that is paid from the pockets of taxpayer is simply wrong. It further solidifies the feeling of corruption in this town and to be quite honest it makes me wonder what is really going on.

Posted by: greycat | Nov 13, 2017 11:40

An interesting and entertaining diatribe from a Ms. Lisa Morales concerning the Onset Fire District.  Unfortunately, it is riddled with falsehoods, misinterpretations, erroneous data, incompetent research and frivolous nonsense all bundled together to injure if not destroy the credibility of the author.


It is her responsibility to make the necessary corrections and include ALL relevant information concerning her issues if she wishes to regain any level of credibility.  All she has accomplished so far is to mislead the uninformed, and when they discover the facts, she may well find herself retracting statements and backpedaling on issues due to sloppy work.


I will say her spelling and punctuation seem to be appropriate, but the article itself is worthless.  Don’t believe it.

Posted by: Newlyaresident | Nov 13, 2017 14:47

Greycat, you apparently have the same affliction as Mgoodell - expert opinion on how incorrect and misinformed Ms. Morales is but not a shred of a fact to correct any of her assertions. Scroll up and read WWareham’s post, but insert your name instead,

Posted by: WWreader | Nov 13, 2017 16:34

Just to toss a fact into this mess, Goodell is not a town employee. She is an Onset District employee. Alternative facts anyone?

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Nov 14, 2017 00:48

Greycat, I’m begging for facts! That’s the entire point! It’s not an “article” it’s my opinion and first-hand observations, and I am willing to sign my name to it. Are you? The press “retracts,” I’m a civilian taxpayer so shocked by the incompetence, deliberate or otherwise, and concerted attempts at concealment. Help us all “discover the facts” if you have access to them. I appreciate the good marks for spelling and punctuation (a useful thing for a writer of diatribe) and my mission is not to entertain but to inspire people to ask these questions for themselves. It is not “worthless” if that is the end result. So please, please educate and inform us.  Video of the 11/9 meeting is here, judge for yourselves

Minutes of the Oct. 26 meeting are here


Posted by: OnsetTogether | Nov 14, 2017 00:54

What is the best way to inform the taxpayers and residents of the fire and water districts in a proactive way that the Town of Wareham does not provide fire, water, or EMS services for our property tax? When I bought my house it was never mentioned (and the Realtor told me I had mail delivery. Hah) and since the district tax is collected by the Town along with the property tax (for a very hefty percentage of the total tax revenue) it further confuses people. Ideas?

Posted by: WWareham resident | Nov 14, 2017 06:29

I started reading greycats post and thought, here we go we're going to facts now, only to be completely let down and left shaking my head. Another 'know it all" without fact to back up their trashing of Ms. Morales.

You should be ashamed of yourself Greycat.


So far the only facts I've seen were stared by Lisa Morales, right-wrong or in different. If anyone can show, in fact, that she is wrong, we're begging for you to give us the real story, until then I still say MGOODELL should be fired for slandering a tax payer on a public forum.


And it makes no real difference if she's a Village or Town employee, the Village is part of the Town Wareham.


BTW, I did not know Greycat was also the  spelling and punctuation police? Who appoints that position in the Village?

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Nov 14, 2017 10:04

The exact moment where he says "The question was asked at the last meeting...about the cost to the District..." is here on video. I assure you, I'm not making this up.  The minutes of the Oct. 26 meeting reflect Chairman Klueber stating the cost of the Agreement "can be calculated," after ratifying it and after "10-12 negotiating sessions." Those minutes are here

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Nov 14, 2017 12:25

Districts are bad...m'kay

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Nov 20, 2017 14:10

Correction: currently 90%, not 99%, and a lump sum payment was given under the Firefighter’s contract to make up the difference in the year it changed, effectively continuing 99%. The meeting is Tuesday Nov. 21 at 7:30, Onset VFW.

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Dec 22, 2017 11:23

There is updated information obtained through FOIA at

Some information gleaned from this request:
The health and dental insurance benefit is very generous.  When considering total "pay" salary plus benefits plus retirement must be considered together.  Each current employee and a Prudential Committee member receive the benefit of $745.00 a month for a single plan or $1,986.00 a month for a family plan for medical only.

The Onset Fire and Water District has 85 employees.

The Paid Leave benefits are as much as 33 days a year (6 1/2 work weeks).

Sick Leave becomes a cash payment and a "Golden Parachute" paid out at retirement at the employee's rate of pay at retirement, not the value when the time was earned.  Many employers have done away with provision believing that sick leave is for when an employee (or family member) is sick, not to boost income and retirement.  The cost of this to the taxpayers is not revealed.

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