Tivertonians: They Just Want Your Money

On the last page of the main section of the recent Sakonnet Times comes news of a petition that has succeeded in putting a ladder truck for the fire department on the docket for the financial town meeting. The meat of the petition is as follows:

This petition seek [sic] to appropriate and expend the annual sum of $110,290.00 for twelve (12) years for the purpose of acquiring a ladder tower for the Tiverton Fire Department. The amount paid annually will represent a financed amount of $950,000.00 over a twelve (12) year period at 5.51% interest. This proposal is being sought because the item was not considered by the Tiverton Budget Committee in the docket for this year and because numerous members of the Tiverton Budget Committee have advocated a maximum increase in the annual tax levy not to exceed one percent (1%) or zero. Because the Tiverton Budget Committee is recommending a slashed school operational budget in order to achieve their desired goal of a maximum levy increase of one percent (1%) to a zero percent [sic], and because these same Budget Committee members are squandering the limited ability to utilize tax revenues under the State mandated cap of 4.75% to improve the community as a whole, we the Tiverton Taxpayers listed below believe it is in the best interest for the Town of Tiverton to acquire a Fire Apparatus Ladder Tower vehicle that will be used to save lives, provide fire protection to the community as a whole, assist in lowering our already too high insurance premiums by generating a more favorable national Fire Standard Rating than currently exists and to provide appropriate equipment for the health and welfare of the Tiverton Fire Department professional staff.

Before touching on its dishonesty, think of the small-mindedness behind this proposal. During the worst financial downturn in decades, perhaps since the Great Depression, a minority of the town Budget Committee supports a leveled budget. Therefore — because the committee is recommending a restrained school budget — a handful of revenge-seeking agitators and a few dozen folks who likely don’t follow town finances very closely wish to spend over a million dollars on a fire truck, adding more than $100,000 to the town’s annual debt requirements for so many years that students now entering first grade will be graduating high school at around the time we’re done paying off the truck. (That number obviously doesn’t include any extra expenses in maintaining, fueling, operating, and manning it.)
The dishonesty of the petition points to the more basic goal of its backers. As one discovers elsewhere in the Sakonnet Times, the Budget Committee’s docket currently calls for a tax levy increase of 3.36%, not 1% and certainly not 0%, and that doesn’t account for the additional $300,000 that the town council wishes to set aside for abatements. In this context, look again at this line:

… these same Budget Committee members are squandering the limited ability to utilize tax revenues under the State mandated cap of 4.75% to improve the community as a whole …

In other words, the goal for this cadre is to achieve or exceed the state’s cap on tax increases. It’s to take money from every taxpayer in Tiverton and allocate it to the priorities of a few people with the time and motivation to manipulate procedure. That is why the rest of us can no longer afford not to participate.
It’s worth highlighting a few notables among the petition’s signers:

  • Former Budget Committee Chairman and thwarted Town Council candidate Chris Cotta
  • Former School Committee Chairwoman Denise deMedieros
  • Current Budget Committee member Alex Cote.

I’d be interested if anybody has information on this “national Fire Standard Rating.” I’m not even sure that there’s a rating with that name, and moreover, some light research on the matter has left me with the impression that insurance rates aren’t easily calculable based on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Insurance savings are being thrown about as a vague promise of cost-offsets, but such statements don’t seem to be based on much more than a general sense that spending money might, in the words of the petition, “assist in lowering” costs.

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12 years ago

“Insurance savings are being thrown about as a vague promise of cost-offsets”
The burden of proof of such savings, as well as the existence and requirements of a “national Fire Standard Rating”, is entirely on the hands of those who advocate for this fire truck. If specific, documented proof is not soon forthcoming, we can file all of these representations under “Fiction”, along with the need for the truck.
(There isn’t a fire equipment stimulus package pending in Washington …?)

12 years ago

It sounds like somebody is using the wrong term for the right concept. They’re talking about the town’s ISO rating (www.isomitigation.com/) which rates fire departments on a series of factors such as the water system, communications and dispatch, manpower, apparatus equipment and distribution, training, etc. Insurance companies use ISO ratings to determine commercial and residential insurance rates. A low ISO rating (1-5) reduces insurance rates for homeowners and businesses, which makes it easier for residents and business owners to afford to live and work in Tiverton. Higher ratings (5-10, ten being basically no fire department at all) results in very high insurance rates and an anti-business climate. We’re talking at LEAST hundreds of dollars per business and per homeowner per year for the life of the rating (used to be 10 years, not sure if that’s still the case) that communities has the opportunity to save with a good ISO rating, or lose on the flip side. In Tiverton’s case, your current lack of any ladder truck in town would be a significant deficit on an ISO rating. The nay-sayers will argue about the lack of tall buildings in town, but height is not the only reason for a ladder truck. The large amount of equipment it carries is focused on not just ladders for rescue and accessing roofs for ventilation (reducing damage inside by releasing smoke and heat, in turn allowing quicker knockdown by hose teams) but also overhaul and salvage operations. The tools carried by the ladder truck are primarily used to open walls and ceilings to expose hidden fire for extinguishment, and the salvage covers carried by the truck are used to protect undamaged furniture and household items from water damage. Engine companies carry some of this equipment, but not in the amounts that a ladder truck… Read more »

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Thanks for the information, EMT. I do recall the chief drawing a distinction between a small building, the roof of which the firefighters were able to open up, and a large one, where they couldn’t do so. Having also borrowed a client’s 35-foot fire ladder to do some work on his large house, I know how heavy such ladders are.
It sounds as if two pieces of information are missing if the town’s to consider the purchase of a ladder truck on financial grounds:
1. When our ISO rating expires.
2. How many points the ladder truck would actually improve our score.

12 years ago

While I’m not in agreement that we can afford $1M for a ladder truck at this time, we all need to remember that the Bourne Mill should be coming on line soon, possibly this summer. I don’t think our current fleet is capable of accessing the higher portions of the building. We will either have to rely on Fall River, with their decreased staff, or eventually acquire our own ladder truck at some point in the future.

12 years ago

Justin- When the rating expires doesn’t matter as much, because if a town feels they have made a change to their department or water system that would significantly affect their rating, they can request a re-evaluation at ISO’s earliest convenience. Why wait say, 5 more years when you can lower your resident’s insurance costs NOW?
The other reason to get the truck now is one of ISO wonderfully arbitrary rules regarding the point value of ladder trucks- they refuse to give a truck full points unless the department can provide 3 years worth of yearly load tests (essentially hanging a big weight off the tip of the ladder at full extension and zero elevation).
For older trucks, this is a good thing. For brand-new trucks that should, theoretically, have nothing wrong with them, it costs fire departments points on their evaluation and could even costs them a rating class if they also lose points elsewhere.
So in the event that a department decides to wait until their next schedule ISO visit to get points for a ladder truck, getting it ASAP will go a long way towards actually getting the full ISO benefit from it.
In a town without a ladder, however, I myself would go for a revaluation as soon as it goes into service, assuming all my other ducks were in a row. Even getting 90 or whatever points for a ladder when I had zero before could only help.

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