Annual Fire District meeting a quiet affair


March 23, 2011
TILTON — The annual Tilton-Northfield Fire District meeting was held on Monday, March 14 before a small gathering of residents from the two towns who came out to consider the nine warrant articles presented, along with a $1,441,971 operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011.

Fire Commission Chairman Tom Gallant of Tilton said no motions were made to reduce any budget line items or expenditures in the coming year as the 50 or so voters approved the warrant as written.

"We were done in just over an hour, and everything went through very smoothly," Gallant said.

Over the past year, the three commissioners worked with agencies such as the Local Government Center and other resources, examining wages and benefits for fire district employees. An increase of $31,000 was contained in this year's budget to cover the new insurance being offered to employees. As explained at the public budget hearing held last month, the intent was to bring benefits up to par in order to maintain quality fire and emergency medical staff and retain employees who might otherwise have left for other municipalities.

Voters approved the budget in its entirety, allowing for the new increase in benefits.

"We're pleased we could do that for our employees," said Gallant.

Among other expenditures approved by the 56 people in attendance was $185,000 to be withdrawn from the Apparatus and Equipment Special Revenue Fund¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ for the purchase of a new ambulance, $94,100 from the same fund for fire, rescue and EMS equipment purchases and $125,988 for pressurized hydrant service from the Tilton-Northfield Water District.

The Fire District's budget committee did not approve the article for pressurized hydrants, but ultimately, voters disagreed and voted to pass the article.

Commissioners said they hoped to hold discussions with the water district commissioners in the coming year to negotiate future costs of the hydrants.

This year's district meeting was a far cry from the lengthy meeting in 2010, when a petitioned warrant article called for the dissolution of the fire district. Hundreds of voters came out for that important decision, and in the end voted to keep the district intact. Since that time, the Fire Commission has moved forward in addressing concerns raised by voters at last year's meeting.

One such concern was the cost of overtime for career firefighters. Some residents requested the department utilize their call firefighters more effectively to keep overtime for career staff members to a minimum.

Gallant said that with the assistance of Chief Brad Ober and Deputy Chief Mike Robinson, the commission would turn their attention toward that issue in the coming months.

Much of last year was taken up in the study on wages and benefits and the search for a new chief when former Chief Stephen Carrier resigned in September, but they are now prepared to "step up training" and increase the use of call personnel.

"One of the things we'll be addressing this year is to work with our chief and deputy chief in making sure the integration between our call and career firefighters is improved significantly," Gallant said.

The next monthly meeting of the TNFD Fire Commission is scheduled for March 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 213 in the new Academic Building on School Street in Tilton. The public is welcome to attend.

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