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Ossipee fire departments present 2011 budgets

January 06, 2011
OSSIPEE — The town's three fire precincts unveiled their proposed 2011 operating budgets at the budget committee hearing earlier this month, totaling $1,322,638.

The budgets will now go to precinct voters in their respective precincts. West Ossipee will hold its annual meeting for voting on the budget and electing officers on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. at West Ossipee Fire Station. Additionally, that precinct will hold a public information session on Saturday, Jan 8 from 10 a.m. to noon at the fire station to allow voters a chance to pick up a copy of the proposed budget and annual report and voice any concerns or ask questions.

Center Ossipee's annual precinct meeting will be in February and Ossipee Corner's in March, likely the week after town meeting.

In total, the three precincts have 61 members on their rosters, overseen by a fire chief for each precinct – Ossipee Corner Fire Chief Adam Riley, Center Ossipee Fire Chief Michael Brownell and West Ossipee Fire Chief Bradley Eldridge. Each precinct has its own set of three commissioners who have the responsibility of overseeing the operations and management of the fire department and street lighting in their precinct.

Additionally, the precincts each have an elected treasurer, moderator and clerk. Each year, the commissioners in each precinct submit their proposed budget to the town's Budget Committee. That committee, as a favor to the precincts, approves a budget for posting so that each precinct does not have to elect its own budget committee. The town's supervisors of the checklist take on the task of making sure each precinct's voter list is up-to-date prior to the precincts' annual meetings so the precincts do not have to each elect their own supervisors.

Once the budgets are approved and posted, annual meetings are held in each precinct and voters decide how much money will be raised in taxes to support fire suppression and prevention services. Rather than each precinct having to elect its own tax collector and bear the expense and work of sending tax bills to collect only precinct tax, the precinct tax is included on the property tax bill sent from the town. The precincts are then given one-twelfth of their appropriation each month in the form of a check from the town. The precincts are each responsible for paying their own bills and processing their own payrolls.

Firefighters on all three Ossipee departments are no longer considered volunteers but rather employees. In Center Ossipee and Ossipee Corner, members who respond to calls are paid a minimum two hours for each call and in West Ossipee the minimum is one hour of pay per call. Hourly rates for positions at each department vary and are based on certifications, length of service and rank.

Center Ossipee

This year's Center Ossipee Precinct operating budget is down $17 for a total of $387,300. Slight increases in the legal, insurance, and street lighting are offset by decreases in the heating, building maintenance, and precinct expenses lines. Chief Brownell's salary for his part-time position is $29,300 per year. He is additionally paid call pay for hours spent on emergency calls outside of his regular 24 office hours per week. This department has two firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMTs) on duty 40 hours a week who perform maintenance duties, cleaning, paperwork, respond to emergency calls and other duties as assigned.

Ossipee Corner

This year's Ossipee Corner Precinct budget is up $50,840 for a total of $396,935. As explained in an email from Commissioner Jim Spencer, "The largest increase is the $46,000 for debt service. This is the first year's payment on the new engine, the purchase of which was approved by the voters at last year's annual meeting. Approximately half of the cost of the new engine was paid from our capital reserve 'apparatus' fund and the other half was financed. The plan was to repay the loan by diverting the amount that we had been putting into the capital reserve. For this coming year, however, the payment is slightly larger than we had planned. The first payment was to be this month and was to be made with the funds that we would otherwise have put into the capital reserve fund. As you may recall, at our annual meeting, there was some discussion about the wording of the warrant article for that appropriation. We reworded it to please the voter who questioned it; however that did not please DRA (Department of Revenue Administration), and they disallowed the article. Because of that, we changed the terms of the loan so we could skip that first payment. This increased the subsequent payments and added about $4,000 additional interest to the actual first payment."

As a result of the Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI) study commissioned by the town last year, Spencer said they have taken the suggestion to look into cost savings on insurance and were able to get a more reliable quote for the coming year. The biggest increase is in the worker's compensation insurance which jumped from $14,740 to $26,000. This insurance is based on total estimated payroll.

The MRI study also noted Ossipee Corner Fire Department's slower response times due to the geography of that precinct when compared to the other two. Commissioners made the decision to have a trial period with a duty crew at the station during the day and have found this has greatly improved response times to emergency calls. In turn, they will continue to have crews in the station next year who perform other duties in addition to responding to emergency calls.

Chief Riley earns a salary that includes office hours at the station and his response to emergency calls. His salary is not shown separately from the proposed $200,000 payroll for the department and it was not available as of press time.

West Ossipee

West Ossipee Fire Precinct's budget is up $47,136 for a total of $538,403. The main increases in this proposed budget are legal fees ($2,000), training ($5,000), vehicle maintenance ($8,300), medical supplies ($3,000) and capital outlay ($5,500). A new addition to this year's budget is a firefighter health and safety line for $5,000. Commissioners plan to set this fund aside to pay for annual physicals for all of the members.

The total payroll for the department is $198,400 with $60,000 for the full-time chief, $23,400 for part-time administrative assistant, and $11,700 for the deputy chief's base salary. The chief's salary includes administrative duties as well as any emergency calls, trainings, meetings, etc.

West Ossipee Precinct maintains two fire stations, including the newly constructed Jewell Hill Fire Station. The spike in their budget over previous years is the inclusion of the bond payment for the new building as well as the annual equipment lease payment that was approved by voters last year into the regular operating budget. The precinct has no warrant articles in addition to their operating budget on the Jan. 22 warrant.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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