The following is an editorial opinion by Richard Sagar
Too Many Questions . . . Too Little Gratitude
As I have listened to the on-going, prolonged discussion regarding our fire department, I have been saddened and often confused. I have heard unsubstantiated rumors, whispered innuendoes, and sometimes lies. We can and must do better!
At town meeting we are being asked to make a momentous decision regarding our public safety. The question is whether to continue to maintain our present independent volunteer fire department, or to contract with Lisbon for our coverage. This is a question that can have major long-term effects on our town. We are being asked to make an informed decision, but there is an amazing lack of facts to base that decision on.
• Does the Lisbon FD have the capabilities to provide additional coverage for Landaff?
• Have they provided a long-term plan to meet our needs now, and into the future?
• Lisbon has a historically high tax rate; would Landaff become a source of revenue to offset the cost of their Fire Department? How would Landaff’s share of operational costs be calculated?
• When Lisbon builds a new fire station, or makes other major investments, will Landaff be asked to make a major contribution?
• If we make such investments, and the contract is not renewed at a future date, will we then lose our investment?
• Will we still be required to maintain a fire station in Landaff, and retain our equipment?
• How much longer will the response time be? It would seem likely that it would be at least ten additional minutes . . . a very long time in an emergency!
• Will there be an adverse effect on our home owner’s insurance?
I think that one fact that we need to acknowledge as a town is that we have, and have had for over fifty years, a highly motivated group of volunteers that have provided our community with an extremely high level of public service. They deserve our profound thanks and appreciation! These are highly trained individuals who are willing to leave the comfort and safety of their homes at a moments notice to protect our lives and property. They do so at real risk to their own safety. They have also historically raised significant funds for the operating expenses of the fire department by their own hard work. These are funds that directly reduce the burden on the taxpayers. This level of unselfish public spirit is an asset that we as a community should value highly. If we choose to disband the fire department and later realize that we have made a mistake, it would seem unlikely that we could easily summon the kind of enthusiastic public spirit that we currently enjoy.
In the North Country we depend upon our neighboring communities to provide a safety net. No one area fire department is fully able to provide for all contingencies, but through the Twin State Mutual Aid agreement Landaff assists, and is assisted by, many other departments. If we withdraw our personnel and equipment, we not only fail in our responsibility to be a good neighbor, but we weaken the level of protection for ourselves and the surrounding region.
Public safety is not free, but it is in our long-term interest to invest in our own fire department. All funds so invested represent actual costs, and are not revenue motivated. Our citizen volunteers have been good stewards of the budgeted funds, and strive to minimize the costs. As Landaff taxpayers it is in their own self interest to do so. It is certainly reasonable to strive to constrain costs, and as voters we, the voters of Landaff, have the final say through the budgetary process. Do we really want to cede that control to the voters of Lisbon?
The costs associated with the proposed new fire station are, understandably, an issue of considerable concern. Again, we as voters have the final word. The proposal of several years ago, which incorporated numerous non-fire department functions, was rejected by the study committee after negative public feedback concerning excessive cost. A new evolving proposal envisions a smaller structure to meet the basic needs of the fire department at a much lower cost. There are also several funding sources independent of the tax base that are being explored; with the goal of avoiding a negative impact on the tax rate. When that plan is submitted to the town, we as voters will determine if it is feasible. If we are dependent upon Lisbon, and they build a planned new fire station, will the voters of Lisbon decide how much is feasible for the taxpayers of Landaff? If we were dissatisfied what recourse would be available? Would we have any deeded interest in such a building?
Please support the volunteers of the Landaff Fire Department, at Town Meeting, by voting :
NO TO DISBANDING, OR WEAKENING, OUR FIRE DEPARTMENT