New equipment, lower quorum on the warrant at upcoming Fire District Meeting

Apr 5, 2021

Voters at the Wareham Fire District’s upcoming annual meeting will be asked to weigh in on a number of big-ticket items — including purchasing new equipment, buying a replacement command vehicle and funding live fire training. 

In addition, District Meeting attendees will also vote on whether or not to reduce the District Meeting quorum — or the minimum number of voters required for meeting business to be conducted — from 50 registered voters to 25. 

The Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting will take place Monday, April 12 at 6 p.m. in the Wareham High School parking lot (located at 7 Viking Drive). The meeting will be drive-in style to promote safety and social distancing, according to the district’s website.

Chief of the Wareham Fire Department Matt Rowley said that all of the articles on the warrant are important. 

Article 12, for example, would allow the district to spend $25,000 to conduct live fire training for all department personnel. 

“That article’s extremely important for us because in order for our personnel to stay sharp when we’re having to fight a fire, we have to train constantly,” Rowley said, noting that the last live fire training was held in 2015 — six years ago. “We train as hard as we do to keep ourselves safe.”

The money would allow the department to rent a facility where fires can be lit in a controlled environment. Department personnel would participate in exercises under “actual fire conditions” at the facility, Rowley explained.

Essentially, he said the live fire training allows firefighters to “basically practice how to appropriately put out a fire while keeping themselves safe.”

Article 6 would authorize spending $55,000 to purchase and equip a new command vehicle for the department.

“It’s going to end up being a support, or a smaller vehicle,” for more everyday use, Rowley said. “It’s going to replace a 2008 Chevy Tahoe.”

The explanation on the warrant indicates that the Tahoe in question has 120,000 miles on it. The 2008 Tahoe isn’t scheduled for replacement until 2023, but it would be repurposed so it can be used by the fire inspector or to transport firefighter recruits to their required training if the article passes.

There are also warrant articles that will allow the department to replace various equipment, including: $150,000 to remove and replace diesel tanks and fuel pumps at the Wareham Fire District’s fueling station, $33,000 to replace the department’s mobile radios and $33,500 to replace structural firefighting personal protective gear.

“The structural firefighting [gear], the guys take a pounding on it,” Rowley said. “That’s why after 10 years, we have to destroy it and replace it. And it’s very expensive to do — one full set of gear for one firefighter is right around $4,500.”

If approved, the department would use the $33,500 to replace the equipment that is at or near the end of its useful life, Rowley said.

The department’s existing mobile radios are more than 20 years old, and they are no longer supported by the manufacturer, Motorola, for repairs, according to the warrant explanation. Similarly, the department’s existing diesel tanks are beginning to degrade, and the fuel pumps are more than 25 years old.

Quorum change

Article 4 on the warrant isn’t related to spending, but rather the number of people needed to conduct meeting business. 

The Wareham Fire District Prudential Committee has proposed decreasing the District Meeting quorum from 50 registered voters to 25 registered voters. 

In the explanation on the warrant, the committee cited covid-19 safety regulations and limitations on gatherings as reasons for concern about not being able to achieve quorum at District Meetings.

“The inability to achieve a quorum has far reaching consequences,” the warrant explanation says. “We rely on the voters at District Meeting to make important decisions regarding our day-to-day business, including setting the budget. Without the approval of that budget, we risk not be able to pay employees of the district or make payments on our debts.”

The warrant explanation also says that researchers have found that in some communities, reducing or eliminating quorums results in increased voter participation.

“This stems from the fact that people show up to make certain that small special interest groups are not able to make decisions for the masses,” the warrant explanation says.

The explanation provided does not cite a specific study or list researchers by name.

To read up on the rest of the articles on the warrant, view the full Annual District Meeting warrant and the Special District Meeting warrant. The Special District Meeting will also be held on April 12 at the same time as the annual meeting.