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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):
Waterbury $7,144,462 82%
Duxbury $1,600,114 18%
Source: Dept. of Taxes-Municipal Grand List Values by County (5/14/10)
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.
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.