Wareham Fire District budget request up 16 percent from last year

Officials ask voters to approve $1.3 million for fire truck, $2.5 million for new meters
By Matthew Bernat | Apr 01, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat The Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting is set for April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium.

Wareham Fire District officials are asking voters for a hefty budget increase this coming fiscal year for the fire and water departments.

The $12.3 million combined budget for the district, which is governed independently from the town, is up $1.6 million from last year, marking a 16 percent increase.

Voters will be asked to approve the funds at the Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting, set for April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters living in the Wareham Fire District may participate.

Also on the agenda will be funding requests from fire department officials for a $1.3 million ladder truck, $76,000 pickup truck to support fire response and $85,000 to upgrade the department’s radio infrastructure. Those requests, if approved, will be funded by transferring or raising funds, not through the department’s operating budget.

In total, the Wareham Fire Department’s $6.9 million operating budget is up 12 percent from last year, a $378,180 increase. Much of that – $357,000 – is due to contracted raises for staff.

The Wareham Water Department’s $5.4 million budget is up $820,000 from last year, an 18 percent increase.

Water Department Superintendent Andrew Reid said the increase is needed to maintain infrastructure, plan for the multi-million dollar replacement/repair of district pipes and operate a new treatment plant approved by voters last year.

“We’re being proactive,” said Reid. “We know we have a lot of valuable assets in place that are aging, and we’re trying to maintain them.”

To shore up district finances, the Wareham Board of Water Commissioners approved a 52 percent rate hike in water fees this February.

According to officials, the current bill for someone using 37,400 gallons of water in a six-month period is $193. That’s close to the amount of water an average household uses, said Reid. With the increase, that number will be $293.70.

The district currently bills users twice a year, but that could change on April 9 if voters approve a $2.5 million request to install automated water meter readers in all ratepayers’ homes.

The new system would modernize how the district bills users. Right now, each meter must be read twice a year by staff and manually tallied. Reid said an upgrade would provide several benefits, including the ability for the district to bill on a quarterly basis, resulting in smaller, though more frequent, bills. Also, water usage rates would be directly sent to the district office, eliminating the need for manual readers.

Reid said the new system would allow users to monitor their water usage instantaneously. That way if leaks occur they can be spotted sooner and repaired, avoiding costly bills – sometimes in the range of thousands of dollars.

Paying for the new meter reading system will be paid for by raising ratepayers’ bills. Reid said if approved, the average water user will pay an additional $48 per year.

For the fire department, Acting Chief Pat Haskell said firefighter safety is key in requesting equipment and upgrades.

“We’re trying to be responsible to the taxpayer, but we also have to try and be responsible to our firefighters when it comes to their safety,” said Haskell.

The largest request – $1.3 million for a new ladder truck – will replace the department’s current ladder truck, a 1985 model that has surpassed its 30-year life expectancy, said Haskell.

A new truck would include a bucket at the end of the ladder, increasing safety for firefighters and others during rescue operations, he said. Also, the truck will allow firefighters better access to multi-story buildings in the event of a fire or accident. Haskell noted that the district has changed a lot in 35 years. Wareham Crossing, a large hotel and a currently under construction multi-story apartment complex are all new additions in the district.

Haskell said other items are needed as well, including new hydraulics for the department’s mechanic division. The current hydraulics, used to lift fire trucks for repairs, are decades old and can no longer hoist the heavier vehicles.

“Thirty years ago fire trucks weighed a lot less,” said Haskell. “There’s so much equipment now the lifts can’t do the job.”

Other fire department requests include: $15,000 for a new outboard motor for the department’s fireboat; $30,000 for new tires and rim upgrades for vehicles and $25,000 for protective clothing replacement.

Comments (36)
Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 02, 2018 07:37

More and more and more money...

Posted by: Sharkie | Apr 02, 2018 07:58

What in the sam hell is wrong with this town governmen?! Why cant Onset share their truck?? WHY THE HELL DO WE HAVE TWO SEPARATE WATER AND FIRE DEPARTMENTS?! We are ONE TOWN. If Onset wants their own stuff then they need to file to be incorporated into a separate town. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous that the town operates this way. Combine the two departments already and use the money for the damn schools!

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 02, 2018 08:01


Posted by: Rosebud | Apr 02, 2018 08:15

Most of us taxpayers have to live with a 3-5% raise in our paychecks—if we’re lucky enough to get an increase.

I fully agree with Spher:  ONE fire district is enough.

Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 02, 2018 08:25

Andrea lets set the contest on the number of attendees at the meeting. We just had this discussion a couple of days ago. I am going to guess 128.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 02, 2018 09:37

Steve Holmes - I'll get back to you with my attendee number guess after I decide how much effort I'm going to put into online commentary regarding all of the above!

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 02, 2018 11:29

Time to Prop 2 1/2 this clown show!

Posted by: Duffman | Apr 02, 2018 11:57

It's funny, somehow the police department is able to do their job without a second department but fire can't? There is no need for two districts. It puts a strain on our towns very limited resources. As for their new meter reading system, I will not vote for any increase of any kind. If the water departments consolidate and then there would be no reason to pass this. Board members get insurance benefits, with less members there would be less benefits being paid out.

Posted by: Curiouscat | Apr 02, 2018 14:40

For the first time in my life I am unhappy living in this town I was born and raised in.  How any department can ask for more money after all that's been going on.  We're asked to close a school to save money so I have to agree with why two separate water and fire departments?  If one department has to make severe cuts, then they all should.  I am still living in this town for one main reason (aging parent) but if it weren't for that I would be long gone.  All I can say is tomorrow is Election Day.  Please vote new nominees.  Maybe it'll help, it certainly can't be any worse.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 02, 2018 16:05

Take a minute and just think about the millions upon millions of dollars the Onset Fire department, the Wareham Fire depaertment, the Onset water department and the Wareham Water Department have asked for in just the last 2 years. Let that sink in for a minute. If anyone can say this is good for Wareham they are truly an idiot.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 02, 2018 16:20

I have to agree with the sentiment in the previous comments.  I have always chosen not to ride the bandwagon against the dueling districts because good water and safety are very important to me.  I chose peace of mind over the manusha.  Up until now, my fire district tax and my water bill have seemed rather insignificant in the grand scheme.


Learning about the 50% water rate increase, then learning about the wish list of OFD, and now learning about the wish list of WFD has begun to sway me.  It is hard to accept that they all could be asking for so much during these tough times.


Living in Wareham has always been a bargain.  That's one of the reasons why I love it here.  Aside from the stupid crap that I enjoy harping on, it is geographically gorgeous and just like being on the Cape without the bridges. The overall cost of living here has always been significantly less than nearby similar towns and any of the South Shore suburban towns closer to Boston.  That's starting to change!  Little by little.  Our water used to be the cheapest around.  Now look what's about to happen!  I'm sure the small fire district tax will be increasing.  House values are on the rise.  Tax bills will rise.  With or without an override they're going go get us one way or another.  Pretty soon it will make sense to move to Mattapoisett/Westport or even Scituate/Marshfield.

Posted by: MDonahue | Apr 02, 2018 16:24

ONE MORE TIME:  The water departments are NOT part of town government.  They are separate legal entities. The town CANNOT afford to take over the water and fire responsibilities. We could only collect user fees, not the district tax.  Would there be a cost savings if they merged into one?  Possibly, there would be a savings in administrative costs, but there is NO incentive for them to merge without voter pressure.


Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 02, 2018 18:24

There would be huge savings and not just administrative costs. There would be no need for each department having duplicates of everything the other has, thats equipment, propertyand trucks. You wouldn’t need 2 sets of folks getting health insurance for life for attending a few meetings while they tax people out of their health  insurance. You would halve the outrages pensions or better yet get rid of those and go 401K like most every other person in Town has. You wouldn’t need 2 sets of employees sleeping while getting paid. If they are on the clock there are duties, training and maintanance that would be perfomed around the clock. You don’t see the police sleeping on the job. We would not be buying $76000 trucks with $30000 rims while other departmentts in Town suffer. They are not part of Town government but should be to stop this insanity. VOTE NO ON EVERYTHING UNTIL THEY ARE DISBANDED

Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Apr 03, 2018 10:20

Yes, the fire districts are separate entities. Yes, the Town could not collect 'district' tax, BUT, the townspeople could decide to pass a Prop 2-1/2 operational increase to replace the district tax. Fold up the Districts and do away with them, and then collect the revenue by Prop 2-1/2, increasing the scope of Wareham's taxable income. Then, the operations of the water and fire could be expended under those new operational funds collected. 16%, 50% increases and duplication amongst people and equipment??? If we as taxpayers want to keep this up, just keep the status quo. If you want the districts' operations to continue, but want the protection of Prop 2-1/2 for the future, then we actually need to pass a Prop 2-1/2 override as outlined above and make the rubber meet the road! The irony...

Posted by: MDonahue | Apr 03, 2018 11:15

Sphere - Administrative savings, yes.  Equipment & employees?  Wareham covers a LOT of land area.  I don't have any familiarity with the regs and best practices, but I am pretty sure that current stations would still need to be staffed and equipped as they are now.

Doctor - what makes you think Wareham votes will ever pass a 2 1/2 override?  Let's see how debt exclusion for the new school goes over.  If the Town takes on the Districts, the Town takes on their liabilities. Wareham doesn't  have the money to do that.  Go to the meetings and make the districts accountable. Work to combine them if you can, but keep them separate from the town if you want any kind of water service and fire protection.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 03, 2018 13:01

Not why you would think the only way people get water and fire protection is thru a district system. People all over the country get water and fire protection from their towns without the need for a district. WE are already paying for any liabilities the district may have thru rates and  district taxes. The problem is the districts don't give a rats bottom about the rate/taxpayers. Its chief objective is to grow and increase profit for those within the organism. Its time to pull this bloated tick off of Wareham's jugular.

Posted by: MDonahue | Apr 03, 2018 14:07

Property owners pay a district tax to the water districts (even though it is shown and collected with our town real estate tax bills).  The town would not be able to collect that add'l tax as if would be in violation of Prop 2 1/2.  So the town who be stuck with the existing debts and liabilities of the districts without the tax revenue to pay for them.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 03, 2018 14:18

They would adjust the rates to where they would take into account the lost tax. Bills would be higher but tax bills lower so it would be a wash.  Or you could ask for an override that equaled the district tax.Once the pork was cut and duplication eliminated we would then see rates fall.

Posted by: SammieJfive | Apr 03, 2018 15:51

Really? Water Department. raises rates 52%, then asks for an additional (18%) or $820,000? Hum. In my calculations, that's a 70% increase in total. Fire Department NEEDS a $76.000 Pick-up truck??? $357,000 in pay raises for 1 department? I am shocked and disgusted!! If I'm reading the article correctly, it also states that the Water Dept. wants to pass another $2.5 million request to install automated water meters in each home, so that employees don't have to manually read meters? What exactly will the employees who are now reading meters do? Get a raise to do nothing? This is a complete snow job of greed if I ever heard one!!! My whole life, I've been told that if you work for the "town", you have it made. Guess they were right!!! I also had to laugh at the quote, "Those requests, if approved, will be funded by transferring or raising funds, not through the department's operating budget". Please, tell me when and where the bake sale and car wash take place. I'll be sure to attend!

$76,000 for a Pick-up truck? Is it a BMW? Mercedes? Lexus? Bought mine in 2006 for $26,000 and included a plow!!! Yep, still driving it.

On what planet do these increases make ANY sense? I'd like to know, because I'm obviously doing something wrong. After 3 years working for the same company, I make $11.55. 55 cents over minimum wage.


Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 03, 2018 16:25

I understand that those that do no have town water from either of the districts do not pay the district tax.  Is that true?

Posted by: rhbinma | Apr 04, 2018 03:51

Part of the increase must be so they can keep washing there cars and trucks for free when ever they feel the need.  Since I pay for it can I show up at the fire station and wash my vehicles?

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 05, 2018 06:41

Slinging outrage from behind a screen name isn't going to change one single thing! How many of you are angry enough, fed up enough and outraged enough to realize that if you don't show up at the Wareham Fire Water District Meeting Monday night and JUST SAY NO the Fire and Water District are going to dig so deep into your pockets that they'll go right through the bottom...and if you have any "life savings" they might just dig into those as well!

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 05, 2018 07:02

That's very true, but really how much longer will the voting be done over Monday night coffee meetings ? We've already witnessed what happens when people try to expose the truth around here...

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 05, 2018 07:30

Wondering if the Town could mandate that any votes to be made pertaining the districts operating within the Town must be voted on the general ballot during other Town balloting.

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 05, 2018 07:38

It would be possible, but you wouldn't get anyone to show up and vote for that either.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 05, 2018 09:21

Sphere - and Cranky - I bet the Wareham Water and Fire District love both of you right now. You're just what they need, a giant distraction from the mammoth budget increase that they want to push through at the ANNUAL MEETING MONDAY APRIL 9, 7 PM AT THE WAREHAM HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 05, 2018 09:36

Sphere and Cranky - Combining Districts isn't one of  Monday night's articles and it's not going to be, no matter how many times you resurrect the topic, no matter how many different (and often unrelated) Wareham Week articles and comment sections you manage to toss the topic into.


Please go back and read this article, really read it, don't just skim over it. And then please,  tackle the information in this article. If you agree with the budget increases say so. If you disagree with the budget increases say so. And then, please don't wonder off into being a giant distraction from the potential for a massive Wareham Fire/Water District budget increase.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 05, 2018 10:52

I don't agree with what's in this budget.  Ill be leaving now,  so glad I don't live and think inside a box on this issue

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 05, 2018 11:19


Aside from reading the article perhaps you should read deeper into the comments.. Clearly nobody is for the increase and if you believe that showing displeasure in public forum is the distraction they need to slice and dice then that's on you. Posting here has no bearing on what happens in reality. They don't count votes from the newspapers. I understand what you're trying to say, but it's not necessarily in its correct form.

It's obvious that we need to get people to attend the ANNUAL MEETING MONDAY APRIL 9, 7 PM AT THE WAREHAM HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 05, 2018 11:51

Excuse my inexperience, I've attended town meeting and I vote during elections, but I've never been to a Fire District Meeting.  Is it a show of hands style vote?  Or is it a private ballot style vote?  If it's a show of hands, I envision that place being stacked with Fire District cronies that will see who votes against them.  Many opponents won't be comfortable voting out in the open.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 05, 2018 12:58

WBTS - It's most often a show of hands vote, but a request can be made and if approved by the majority votes can be taken by a paper ballot. I have seen paper ballot votes taken at the District meetings.


Unfortunately the outcome of public meetings often depends upon one of the following:


1) which side of an issue most effectively "stacks" the meeting with cronies who share their opinion


2) how many people have something, anything, they'd rather do than attend the meeting


2) how many people bury their head in the sand and don't take the time to look beyond the flourish with which a proposal is touted and take the time to explore how the possible ramifications of a proposal could impact them personally


3) how many people are afraid that if they voice their opposition or their support for an article they'll be publicly shunned or targeted with retaliation by those they speak in opposition to


WBTS - you know I covered Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester and Wareham five years for a newspaper. In those five years, I witnessed plenty of people attending public meetings voice and/or vote by hand thereby expressing opposition or support for an controversial issue that was generating a lot of hot emotions. And I can't remember covering one single story about retaliation arising from their having done so.


And just in case there is an undercurrent of an unspoken concern in your comment....I do not believe for one minute that services would be delayed, interrupted or otherwise negatively impacted for any residents who choose to exercise their right to speak and to vote.



Posted by: bob | Apr 05, 2018 14:07

Well said ANDREA,now if only the district rate payers would come out and vote....

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 05, 2018 23:45

Andrea, thank you for taking the time to answer my question and explain that.  I appreciate the fact that you took me seriously.  I’d first like to assure you and any of the other readers that there is no unspoken concern in my comment.  I would never for a second think that anyone from the district would do anything like that.


I’d be willing to bet that more would vote if paper ballot was standard procedure.  Seems like the request and approval you describe is a hurdle that has potential for denial.


True, cases of retaliation are unlikely.  True, many do express opposition and do vote against by hand without reservation.  But many would rather be discreet.

Posted by: rhbinma | Apr 06, 2018 18:08

I have never been to one of there meetings but I will on this one. This town is taxing us to death.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Apr 06, 2018 18:48


Posted by: rhbinma | Apr 07, 2018 15:49

Who puts these people in for raises? Those are some ridicules raise amounts. Most people are lucky to get 2-3 percent if any . And they want to give just them 3 alone about 13 % increase no wonder we are being raped.

Fire Dept   Salaries

2019                           2018

Chief                    $136,250                      $125,703    7.7% increase

1st Asst Chief      $104,585                      $87,003    20.2% increase

2nd Asst Chief    $97,405                        $86,432      12.7% increase



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