Wareham Fire District voters approve reduced fire department budget

Water officials say expensive repairs on the horizon
By Matthew Bernat | Apr 30, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Wareham Water Commissioners and Prudential Committee members on stage at the start of Monday's meeting.

After officials reduced the fire department’s budget and explained an $820,000 increase for the water department, voters passed a combined $12 million Wareham Fire District budget.

Held Monday with 108 voters attending, the meeting reconvened three weeks after voters demanded financial transparency from officials during a contentious session that lasted three and half hours. The district, which provides water and fire service, is governed independently from the town. The Onset Fire District, a separate entity, provides those same services for Onset residents and is also self-governed.

On Monday, officials returned with a fire department budget reduced by $340,000. Prudential Committee member George Barrett said reductions were made in the budget’s group insurance, clerical salaries and contractual benefits line items.

“We sought to address the concerns and lower the overall bottom line,” said Barrett. “We feel this is a reasonable compromise.”

Originally, officials sought a $6.9 million fire department budget. The approved figure was $6.6 million.

Before the vote, Bill Heaney, a former member of the Finance Committee, questioned a planned debt repayment for a new fire rescue truck. Last year, voters approved spending $795,000 for the truck, which still hasn’t been purchased.

“I don’t want to use the technical term ‘snookered’, but I feel snookered,” said Heaney. “We were told as a body that was the highest priority on the department’s capital plan.”

Heaney proposed eliminating $40,000 and $200,000 on line items that would be used to pay back the first loan payment, if the truck is purchased this year.

In response, Barrett said officials held off on the purchase following the retirement of former Chief Robert McDuffy. Currently, the Prudential Committee is searching for a new chief.

“We recommended not buying anything until we get a new chief in place,” said Barrett. “By zeroing this out that would preclude us from buying a new truck until this meeting next year.”

Voters shot down Heaney’s proposal to eliminate the loan repayments.

Before the water department’s $5.4 million budget – up 17 percent from last year – was approved, Superintendent Andrew Reid outlined looming, massively expensive repairs on the horizon.

Part of the problem is several unfunded mandates from the state related to water quality and safety. But the biggest expense will be replacing miles of pipes. In total, there are 170 miles of water pipes in the system, Reid said. Of that, 16 percent was installed before 1959 and will need replacing over the next several years to avoid failures. He said it costs approximately $1 million to replace 1 mile of pipe.

“The Board of Water Commissioners see that a wave is coming and we’re trying to prepare for that wave,” said Reid. “We want to try and do it a little bit at a time.”

To do so, the commissioners approved a 35 percent water rate increase this winter. The new rates take effect July 1.

Heaney noted that the increase isn’t something voters had control over at the meeting. However, they could send a message.

“The unfortunate part is that the setting of the rates is the sole authority of the water commissioners,” said Heaney. “We could cut the budget, but that doesn’t cut the water rate…The only way for that to be resolved is to vote the budget down in its entirety and in effect give the water commissioners 60 days to reconsider the rate increases.”

Voters didn’t heed Heaney’s advice, however, and the budget passed by a majority.

Comments (17)
Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 01, 2018 09:19

Funny how they each have a Poland Springs bottled water in front of them in the picture.  This being a meeting about Wareham's water, they each should have a reusable bottle filled with our very own water.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 01, 2018 12:15

My town water is terrible. Smells like chlorine when you first turn it on and tastes like it too. I filter my water. Would never drink it out of the tap. Very telling that none of them do either!

Posted by: cranky pants | May 01, 2018 12:58

Is that Wareham water or Onset ?

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 01, 2018 13:07

Basically says "we ain't drinking it but you're all gonna be paying 35 percent more for it..." .

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 01, 2018 13:45

We have a PUR water filter on our kitchen faucet and it's very effective, no odor to the kitchen water. When I turn on bathroom faucets, especially first thing in the morning, it smells like Clorox bleach is pouring forth from my pipes.

Posted by: bob | May 01, 2018 14:58


Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 01, 2018 17:24

We filter it for the water and ice through the door of the fridge.  It works ok but the water quality sure isn't what it used to be.  The chlorine, although it smells, is actually there to keep us safe.  I recall in the unchlorinated days how good it was.  We'd all come down in the summer from the suburbs and rave about it.  Some towns south of Boston have surface water that actually gets fishy in the summer! My grandparents would bring jugs of Wareham tap water home with them! If they were still around, I doubt they'd still be doing it with our current water!

Posted by: WWareham resident | May 01, 2018 18:45

Both of us and our dog were having constant stomach issues until I switched us all to bottled water.

The rate we pay for water unsuitable for human consumption is a travesty. Another reason to sell and move anywhere else. The rates is going up I heard possibly 40%? Dose anyone know what the increase is going to be

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 01, 2018 20:30

WW- says here the rate increase will be 35%.  Lucky dog you have!  Some drink from the toilet...some drink Fiji Water!!  Seriously, I know what you mean.  I know someone who's chickens were vomiting due to the chlorine.  Now they have to draw water a day early and let it sit uncovered to offgas the chlorine before giving it to the chickens.

Posted by: totellthetruth | May 02, 2018 07:59

Strange! We don't have these Chlorine-Taste problems in Onset District.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 02, 2018 08:09

Truth,  Wait till Dakota 40b PROJECT has its way with the Onset wells. It will taste like used SNAP food before too long. My water tastes like cranberries.

Posted by: WWareham resident | May 02, 2018 21:56

WBTS I actually now boil his water and keep 5 to 6 gallons full at all times  There's a huge pot on the stove I use at least once a day boiling more water  35% is ridiculous, there's nothing we can do about it??

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 03, 2018 08:02

For years I have been commenting on what could have been done. Do away with the Districts, the savings would be incredible. Duplication of manpower and services is why they are going up 35% now and more in the near future when they call in favors to stack the hall to vote in all the things that were voted down. Wareham is in real trouble and the reason lies right here.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 03, 2018 08:45

Sphere, get the ball rolling! You would have a lot of support. You just need to start the process. I believe it's 100 signatures required to get it on the ballot.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 03, 2018 11:32

I really don't care anymore. Either selling or renting out home soon and moving to area not so full of all the BS and needless taxes and fees. Also way too many liberals around and don't like being around dumb people.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 03, 2018 11:41

For anyone who wishes to initiate a citizens petition for consideration at Town Meeting in the matter of the Fire Districts or for any other reason:


May voters place articles on the warrant?

Yes, voters may “insert” articles in the warrant. They have to do it before selectmen “close” the warrant.

To insert an article in the warrant for an annual Town Meeting, at least 10 registered voters of the town must sign a written request. The written request of registered voters for the insertion of subjects in town meeting warrants shall not be valid unless the required number of registered voters not only sign their names but also state their residence, with street and number, if any. Voters do not have to include their addresses after their signatures, but it is a good idea.

If you want a sample of an article to use to draft your article, go to town hall and ask for a copy of the annual report, or check if your town has a website and publishes the annual report there. The annual report will have warrants from the previous year’s Town Meeting, which you can use as samples. For further assistance, contact the town clerk or town counsel.

Citizens may insert an article in the warrant for a special Town Meeting. Selectmen shall insert in the warrant for every special town meeting all subjects which shall be requested by 100 registered voters or 10% of the total number of voters, whichever is lesser.



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | May 03, 2018 16:30

We pay big $$$ up here to the Must We Ride Around  MWRA but at least you can drive it

If you wish to comment, please login.