Center Ossipee fire precinct budget passes easily, but hydrants are a concern



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CENTER OSSIPEE Fire Precinct annual meeting was held last week. The 2011 budget passed smoothly with no opposition and lasted just under an hour. Pictured here are (seated) commissioners James Dolan, Robert Freeman, and Michael Eldridge and (standing) Fire Chief Michael Brownell and moderator Joe Deighan. (Mellisa Ferland photo) (click for larger version)
March 03, 2011
OSSIPEE — It is almost hard to believe that with all the focus on the fire precincts at the other ends of town, the Center Ossipee Fire Precinct annual meeting would go by barely noticed, but that's exactly what happened Feb. 24.

In about an hour 30 people in attendance elected five precinct officers and passed a budget totaling $459,969 budget of which $386,681 will come from property taxes. The balance will be offset by a federal grant and some miscellaneous revenue.

Moderator Joe Deighan kept the meeting moving along without much trouble as there was no opposition to any of the precinct's warrant articles or operating budget.

Fire Chief Michael Brownell, whose contract is up for renewal in June, accepted appreciation from the commissioners but gave special kudos to his part-time staff, Tom Coates and Dana Cullen, Jr. who he said work very diligently and work hard to make sure the daily duties are completed, allowing him to focus on the chief's responsibilities.

Resident Ralph Wurster, a first-time precinct meeting attendee, congratulated the commissioners for maintain the bottom line. The precinct's operating budget totaling $387,300 is down $17 from the 2010 budget. The most significant jump in the budget is a six percent increase in property-liability insurance and nine percent in worker's compensation but the budget was trimmed in several other lines to offset this.

Raising the most discussion at the meeting was talk of fire hydrants and the frustration of trying to work with the town's water commissioners to understand the hydrant maintenance system. Brownell said he is discouraged that while the manager of the Ossipee Water and Sewer Department, Doug Sargent, has maintained good communication with the fire department, the water and sewer department's commissioners have not.

Center Ossipee Fire Precinct pays the department $17,400 for the repair and maintenance of the village's fire hydrants. Brownell said he has tried repeatedly without success to get a clear maintenance schedule for the hydrants. This could affect the precinct's ISO rating if that organization comes to view equipment records to set the rating and there is no set schedule for hydrant maintenance.

ISO stands for Insurance Services Office, Inc. and ISO fire ratings are used by property insurance companies to set insurance premium rates. The lower the ISO fire rating, the lower the insurance premium. According to www.isomitigation.com, 10 percent of the rating score is based on how well the fire department receives and dispatches fire alarms, 50 percent is based on the fire department's training and equipment and readiness to respond to emergencies, and 40 percent of the total score is based on the community's water supply.

Brownell said first response to a fire means fire crews arriving on scene with about 5,300 gallons of water to make the initial attack but obviously they rely on the fire hydrants working through the course of the emergency. Last year, he said, there were two major fires at buildings on the town's hydrant system and in both cases the hydrants firefighters were using failed and they had to switch to another one. Brownell said he has pressed the water commissioners for a maintenance schedule or if they operate only on a "break and fix" maintenance system. The fire precinct commissioners and Brownell said they will continue to try to get information from the water commissioners.

In other meeting news, voters gave permission for the commissioners to apply for a federal grant that could fund Ossipee's first full-time firefighter. Through the Safer Grant program, part of the Federal Emergency Management Act, the precinct will apply for full funding for salary and benefits for one firefighter. The grant program requires a commitment from voters to accept full federal funding in 2011 and 2012 and then the precinct would pick up the full cost of about $55,000 in 2013. Brownell stressed that this grant is not intended to create a full-time position for him but rather a younger firefighter who is interested in making a career in the fire service. If the grant is not received, the position will not be created this year.

Surprisingly, there was very little talk about the subject that seems to come up at any fire-related budget meeting in town this season merger of Ossipee's three fire precincts. The commissioners here expressed a wait-and-see attitude as the selectmen ready for a vote at town meeting on the issue. On the town's warrant for vote at the March 9 town meeting, voters will be asked to approve $5,000 to send out a survey to Ossipee taxpayers asking their opinion of the idea of merging the three precincts.

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