Public Safety Group talks continue

DORSET - The public safety working group will soon be sending out requests for proposals and the public safety consolidation study will be underway.

The public safety working group is composed of officials from town government, police, fire and rescue squad departments, plus several private citizens. They are exploring ways of consolidating public safety services in Dorset and Manchester.

At March Town Meeting, voters will be asked to approve funding for a formal consolidation study. In the meantime, the public safety working group has been assessing the resources of the respective police, fire and rescus squad departments between the two towns.

Last Wednesday, the group met and heard presentations about the Dorset and Manchester fire departments.

There are 35 members currently serving on the Manchester Fire Department, that made 135 calls in 2013, Chief Philip "Grub" Bourn said.

These calls involved motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide calls, as well as community events like the street festivals, fire prevention events at the schools and the race for the cure.

The department has seven vehicles: Two primary engines, an aerial tower, rescue truck, tank er, two brush trucks and a special operations trailer, Bourn said.

The budget for operating the de partment comes in at $72,850.00 - this includes training, furl, hazardous waste supplies and $22,500 a year to the firefighters.

"There's $22,500 that goes to all of us, there's a point system. You get a point per call, a point for training, a point for drill," he said. "And all those points you take that total average of $22,500 to all of your members and you divide that down and this year I think we got $5 per it's pretty much just gratis."

Bourn said traditionally the check has been given to the firemen before deer season. If they were to go on every call, it works out to be around $300, he said.

Through private funding and their pancake breakfasts, the Manchester fire department has been able to purchase new rain gear, thermal imaging cameras, new radio headsets and other new tools and gear.

The question was asked how much the Manchester Fire Department spends on insurance and rent, a line item seen in other budgets presented at these meetings. Insurance is covered by the League of Cities and Towns and covers all services in Manchester - like fire, police, road crew.

"The other thing is, the budget for the fire department, the fire house, that is comes out of, you know, our operating budget for the town of Manchester, because when we moved from where we were, we gave that land to the town for a dollar," he said. "And we get money for the rec from that, and we got a new facility for that. So we gave that up."

John O'Keefe, Manchester town manager said that items like heat, electricity, building maintenance are not listed in the fire department budget because they are covered by the town.

There is also a separate line item in the town budget for $75,000 for the trucks, an item placed on both the Dorset and East Dorset fire department's budgets.

"The total budget is $172,000 and that includes the $75,000 for the sinking fund. Right now $35,000 is going back to pay UDAG back [Urban Development Action Grant] that we borrowed to pay down the ladder truck," Bourn said. "And the other $35,000 is going back into the sinking fund we have two more years becasue we went out on a limb to buy that platform (fire truck) for $750,000. We borrowed the money, we said we would pay it back. We raised close to $400,000 and we came up short."

After two years, the complete $75,000 will go back to the sinking fund to purchase a new truck or if there is an equipment failure, like losing an engine, Bourn said.

All together, the Manchester fire department's budget works out to be about $150,000 - $72,850 in the operating budget and $75,000 towards the sinking fund.

The Dorset Fire Department, led by Chief Shawn Hazelton, is like the department in East Dor set, overseen by the Dorset Prudential Committee and is funded through a district fire tax. There are currently 19 members, with four junior members on the staff, Rob Gaiotti, Dorset town manager said. Last year, the department responded to 105 calls.

There are three trucks, the new est one purchased in 2012, as well as a brush truck to equipped with a 250 gallon tank and an ATV: Polaris Ranger that is equipped for back country rescue.

The total budget for the Dorset Fire Department works out to be $229,036. For the 2012 to 2013 budget, the Dorset Fire Department actually had a revenue of $30,405, which was moved to the truck escrow fund, Gaiotti said.

Hazelton said there is a similar point system in Dorset like in Manchester.

"Also, if any of our firefighters take firefighter one or firefighter two [which requires a higher degree of skill and classes], we'll pay them up to $1,000 over a course of five years," he said. "That's $200 a year, over the course of five years as long as they stay with our department."

Finally, the request for proposals was discussed. Dorset, Gaiotti said, decided to put $10,000 directly into the town budget as a line item. Manchester on the other hand, O'Keefe said, decided to place a specific line item on the budget, but also pose a question on the town warning as to whether the town supports the study or not.

The RFP is still a draft and both Gaiotti and O'Keefe want to finalize and add more detail to sections like the requirements for the organizations submitting these requests.

Finally, the group discussed what they had heard from people in both towns about the study. Bourn said he has heard both good and bad about the study -some just think it is a waste of time and money.

Ivan Beattie, the chairman of the Manchester Select Board, said someone asked him why the study was taking place, because all the government does is waste money on studies.

Michael Oltedal, Dorset select board said what he's heard is mostly speculation.

"Guessing what it's going to turn out to be...and I have to remind them, it's a study. We don't know until the study comes back," he said.


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