Message from the Chief of the LVFD
The message that I hear from community members around the fire department is that they want more details (and have heard various fictional rumors around past management and future plans or desires). I wanted to provide a few additional details to the Ledger prior to the town meeting.
I realized that the budget detail has gone away from the annual report the last couple of years, so below is what I have tracked and submitted so you can see exact cost of the fire department. I’m happy to improve on the descriptions and details of information to be shared. As with any department, expenses rise and fall based on various circumstances and we work hard to stay well within budget watching every penny that is spent.
|Category||2015 Budget||2015 Actual||2016 Budget||2016 Actual||2017 Budget Submitted by Fire Chief||2017 Budget by Selectboard||2017 Actual||2018 Budget|
*Note that unspent amounts go into unencumberd funds for the town and have added up to $11,841.27 since 2015.
*In 2015, we were working on outfitting our updated fire engine with tools and equipment which is why that one year was a little higher than normal. In 2017, truck maintenance on the Tanker was more than we anticipated. I’m happy to answer any questions about the expenses. If we do not “need” something, we do not buy it.
New Fire Station
We have been trying to follow the desires of the town based on various directives for proposing a new fire station going back to 2006 while working with the limitations of the current building. We want to get to a point where we can actually present a plan for what is needed, how much it will cost, and how it will be paid for (with the overall desire for as little as possible to come from any new taxes). We can propose a cost effect plan if we are allowed to move forward and plan (and it will cost money for final plans, designs, engineering studies), and we have the funds to cover these without any taxpayer consequences but have not been allowed to use these funds. We’ve attempted to work with the Select Board to overcome these challenges and the solution was to bring warrant articles to the 2018 Town Meeting. So we continue to push forward to overcome technicalities that are presented to prevent us from moving forward with planning. If anyone has “heard” a prior number or anticipates what a fire station will cost, the number is incorrect and we won’t know until we have a PLAN. Getting to a plan is a challenge and can’t be held to a specific time frame when roadblocks are presented. The voters will ultimately decide on any expense and we will continue to volunteer with our current facility until we can get a plan and present to the voters. Challenges of the current facility affect recruitment, retention, access, and efficiency, but we will continue to deal with these until the voters are ready for something new. Currently, we are not asking for one dime related to planning, site work, or a new fire station.
When presented with the new background check policy, I met with the Select Board to discuss the implications and requested some clarification and slight modifications. They were unable at the time to provide the time and attention necessary to consider the changes and wanted to press forward as written. Our only option available was to present the changes to the town for improvements in this area. Our requests are consistent with other towns and departments and shares the cost of background checks and outlines the overall process as well as confidentiality so that town employees (and that is ALL town employees) are more comfortable with the new requirement. We believe background checks are good municipal business practices regardless of whether they are mandated by insurance, audits, etc. (if they are mandated, then we believe the documentation showing them being mandatory should easily be produced).
We want to continue to serve the town of Landaff
The volunteers are wanting to continue to serve the town. It is not always easy to find volunteers, execute on training, and manage the aspects of a fire department. I have tried to improve the communication and openness with the Select Board with more frequent meetings and more communication. I also tried to talk to the Chief of Lisbon on what a “combined department” might look like and how that could work and was met with “The Lisbon Select Board has instructed me not to talk to you.” We had a good conversation about municipal aid and overall firefighting, but unfortunately had to refrain from discussing a future that included Lisbon covering Landaff beyond mutual aid.
It is prudent to engage the town and open a broader discussion on needs of the town and if our expenditures provide value and a community that we all want to live in and the department members are always willing to engage and contribute to those discussions. Please know that through mutual aid, Lisbon, Bath, Sugar Hill, Woodsville, all cover Landaff with our current situation. We do not see any financial or service need to change the current scenario and look forward to your continued support.
Chief Landaff Volunteer Fire Department