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West Ossipee Fire Precinct passes 2012 budget, elects officers


February 23, 2012
OSSIPEE — Voters in the town's smallest fire precinct passed an annual budget of $441,000 at their annual meeting last month and precinct officials spelled out their progress and plans, leaving one voter to remark, "What a difference a year makes."

The entire meeting lasted just an hour and a half and was attended by about 25 people, a far cry from last year's six-hour meeting attended by 70 people, most of whom attended to demand change in the management of the precinct and the fire department.

While the workings of the precinct and the fire department it manages garnered little interest from the precinct residents in the past, that changed when they received their property tax bill in December 2010 and found a noticeable spike in their precinct tax rate. The major increase was due to the loan approved by a dozen voters at the previous years' precinct meeting that was used to construct a new fire station. A group of concerned taxpayers, mainly residents of the Windsock and Soaring Heights aviation communities, came out in full force demanding a change and cuts to the budget at the January 2011 meeting. They finally agreed on the election of a new commissioner and a level budget of $538,400.

With this year's budget, a little over $100,00 less than last year, approved with no changes by about a third of those in attendance as last year, it appears that changes the commissioners made in 2011 were enough to satisfy disgruntled residents.

At the Jan. 28 meeting, it was explained there is a substantial increase in the government buildings budget line, up to $68,820, and commissioners plan to use that extra money to make improvements to the main fire station, located across from Whittier House. Those improvements include creating a second exit and improving the primary entrance, repairing the leaking roof, and addressing heat loss issues.

In other budget notes, insurance costs are down this year since the precinct is no longer paying the health insurance costs for a full-time fire chief. Commissioners also reported they were able to pay off the lease/purchase agreement for the department's newest fire engine one year earlier and were able to pay an extra $10,000 towards an equipment lease agreement, saving the precinct $6,000 in interest. Voters also approved, in a secret ballot, adding $20,000 to start a capital reserve fund to be used for future purchases of fire equipment and vehicles. New this year, the commissioners will now receive a salary of $100 per month each.

Changes made over the course of the year included the removal of the full-time fire chief's position and the $60,000 pay, health insurance, and retirement benefits that went along with it. The position is now a part-time paid position with additional per-call pay for any emergencies the chief responds to.

Elections were also held at the 2012 meeting. Paula Moore and Paul Jay will retain their seats, rejoining Greg Howard on the Commission. Stanley Brothers was re-elected as moderator. He was nominated for both of the open commissioner seats but lost to Moore in a vote of 21-5 and to Jay in a vote of 17-8. DorisAnn Allenson will serve another year as clerk and Eileen Roberts a second term as treasurer.

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