hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Expensive Night at the Fire District

In their monthly meeting, the Commissioners wandered from comedy to tragedy in their ongoing efforts to do their business in what will at least appear as characterized by responsible behavior.

It began with the approval of the minutes from the last two meetings.  The minutes of the meetings are minimal, at best.  The documents make no attempt to explain decisions or to describe central issues in discussions or (never, never) to mention what members of the public attending the meetings have to say.  So, it's mostly they voted to do this or not to do that.  But last night, Commissioner Riffle wanted some better explanations.  He didn't like that the minutes of the recent special meeting to act on the Chief's salary said only that he made a motion to increase the Chief's salary by $10,000/year.  He wanted it to say why he made the motion; ie, what justified such a position.  The following discussions were cryptic at best, but I believe they ended up leaving the minutes as they stood but agreeing in the future to perhaps provide some context in the minutes if the Commissioners would produce such context-language at the meeting when the minutes were to be approved.  Readers will perhaps be pleased to know that this decision was allegedly made in the interests of increased transparency.  I doubt it, myself.

Then, we moved on to monthly expenditures of $48,000 for some things which were never detailed, plus a $12,000 monthly payroll.  (Those two alone account for almost 10% of the annual budget.)  Then the insurance agent suggested they increase the replacement cost insurance (on the firehall) to $2 million.  Which they did.  And then there was some considerable discussion of whether the Fire District should continue to pursue several former volunteer firemen for at total of about $500-600 due to their being overpaid in years past.  A pittance, in the face of everything else, compounded by the fact that most of the scoundrels who refuse to pay back are in Canada somewhere and probably can't be reached even in small claims court.  And these are very small claims.  Pursuit will continue, however.  Emails will be sent regularly urging them to donate back.  (As a fund-raiser, I know how effective those emails are likely to be.)

And then, the grand and tragic finale:  The septic system is moments away from total failure and it must be replaced immediately and it will cost at least $40,000.  Some work was done earlier this year in hopes of improved drainage doing the trick.  But the trick didn't come off and neither has anything else.  The work will be done on an emergency procurement basis, so it won't go out for bid.

So, in total, that's over $100,000 for the evening.  An expensive night.  On the other hand, the public is very pleased with the fire hydrant painting program and the community relations program.  That's the cheap part of having a service whose primary purpose is to put out fires and provide emergency medical care.

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