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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Duxbury budget increase explained

The residents of Duxbury will confront a significant increase in the proposed town budget specifically in line item number 411, fire protection. The contract with the town of Waterbury is slated to increase this year approximately $42,000 over the previous contract ($60,472) for a total cost to the town of $102,179. The increase reflects Duxbury’s apportioned share of the first year of debt service related to the construction of the two new Waterbury fire stations. The contract is calculated by adding the Equalized Municipal Grand List for each community to arrive at a ratio for apportionment of costs. A small portion of Duxbury abutting Moretown is contracted with the Moretown Fire Department and last year the Grand List was adjusted accordingly.

 

Duxbury’s portion is calculated as follows and itemized in the contract (4/1/12-3/31/13):

 

  1. The payment of $102,179 is calculated by multiplying the town of Duxbury’s share of the combined Duxbury and Waterbury equalized municipal grand list times the costs incurred by the town of Waterbury related to fire protection services in year 2011.
  2. According to the most recent report published by the Vermont Department of Taxes, the town of Duxbury’s municipal grand list is 18 percent of the combined equalized municipal grand lists of Duxbury and Waterbury:

 

                                                                        Equalized Municipal

                                                                        Grand List

                                                                        (2010)                                        Percentage

               Waterbury                                        $7,144,462                                 82%

               Duxbury                                           $1,600,114                                 18%

                                                                        $8,774,576                                100%

       

               Source: Dept. of Taxes-Municipal Grand List Values by County (5/14/10)

               http://www.state.vt.us/tax/pvrannualreports.shtml

 

  1. Waterbury and Duxbury agree that the Waterbury Fire Department is responsible to     cover approximately 83 percent of Duxbury’s Grand List, acknowledging that the Waterbury Fire Department does not respond to “South Duxbury.” For the purposes of this agreement the exemption of property value as described lowers Duxbury’s Equalized Municipal Grand List to $1,328,095 and the combined Equalized Municipal Grand List to $8,472,557. Duxbury’s portion is 15.6 percent (1,328,095/8,472,557).

 

The fact that the cost for fire/emergency protection would increase has not been a secret.  The discussion of an increase based on the added debt cost to Waterbury related to the construction of the two new stations has been highlighted at the past two Annual Town Meetings.

 

After several efforts to arrive at acceptable locations and designs, the plan was approved and the stations constructed. A review of the options presents what was the most cost effective of all of the options. In light of what took place with Tropical Storm Irene, it was a most fortuitous result indeed given how quickly service was resumed and the role the Village station played in the recovery. As we have prepared this year’s budget, questions have been raised with regard to the increase.

 

  1. The issue of why we are required to pay this increase when we played no role in the decision making (voting on the design/bond issue)? We in fact contract for these services from Waterbury and we are not part of a fire district. We have been presented with a copy of the department’s budget which includes the debt service.  The investment in new equipment is an ongoing reality in any department; this includes the need for adequate facilities to house and protect the equipment and gear.
  2. Why doesn’t the town organize its own department? The cost of outfitting an adequate department including equipment and storage would far exceed what the contract cost is to the town. Additionally, enlisting the manpower required to adequately provide reliable and secure 24-hour 365-day coverage is highly questionable. Moreover, the professionalism, training and readiness of Waterbury and Moretown are outstanding including numerous volunteer members from Duxbury.
  3. Why can’t we contract with another department? We do contract with the town of Moretown for coverage of a portion of the town “South Duxbury” due to their proximity with that portion of town. An evaluation of what is involved demonstrates that it is not a simple issue.

 

The following is from the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) website, “ISO is an independent organization that serves insurance companies, fire departments, insurance regulators and others by providing information about risk. ISO’s expert staff collects information about municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. In each of those communities, ISO analyzes the relevant data and assigns a Public Protection Classification—a number from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.”

 

Insurance companies use the Public Protection Classification (PPC) ratings when providing property owners with insurance coverage. The program offers a uniform set of criteria allowing recognized standards for all companies wishing to offer such coverage.  The following is from the ISO website:

 

“A community’s PPC depends on:

 

           fire alarm and communications systems, including telephone systems, telephone lines, staffing and dispatching

           the fire department, including equipment, staffing, training and geographic distribution of fire companies.

           the water supply system, including condition and maintenance of hydrants and a careful evaluation of the amount of available water compared with the amount needed to suppress fires.”

 

Duxbury’s property falls under two of the classifications, PPC 9 and PPC 10 (per ISO).  The factor which differentiates which class applies is the geographic distance from a fire station/facility. Under PPC 9 the maximum distance is five miles; all others fall under PPC 10. Remember that PPC 10 “indicates that the area’s fire suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.” It would be my impression that this is possibly what motivated previous town officials to contract with Moretown for their services in the “South Duxbury” area. Attempting to forge a contract with Moretown for all of Duxbury would place most of the town under a PPC 10 classification. The five-mile range for the Moretown department would end at Stevens Brook Road. Consideration of contracting with Waitsfield would again, with the five-mile range, place all of Duxbury in a PPC 10. This makes no assumption of the impact that extending these services would have on the ratings for the respective towns.

 

In weighing how all of this affects everyone, I have been made aware that not all insurance companies write coverage for property falling under PPC 10; moreover, based on a limited inquiry, there can be an increase of approximately 23 percent between PPC 9 and 10. Again, this information is based on an inquiry with the agent for the town of Duxbury and was confirmed in a conversation I had with a representative of ISO.

 

I am offering this information as a resident and not as a member of the select board so that a thorough review and discussion may be done of the increase in the fire protection line item.  I am well aware like many others of the impact. I believe we would all agree that it is a service we cannot do without nor is it one we ever anticipate making use of.

 

Recent discussions involving the separation of Duxbury and Waterbury with regard to redistricting have made mention of the close and integral relationship of both communities in so many areas. This indeed is one of those areas; the increase in the contract cost to the town would amount to an addition of approximately three cents on the tax rate. Residents should evaluate this versus an increase in their homeowner’s coverage along with the criteria used by ISO to accurately measure and help provide for quality fire protection to our communities.

 

Richard L. Charland lives in Duxbury.

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