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The Lake News Online
  • Our view: MCFPD board, residents must work together

  • The board and chief of the Mid County Fire Protection District face hard choices in the wake of voter rejection of a levy increase. The time has come to live within the district’s means. How that will be done is now the topic of discussion.
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  • The board and chief of the Mid County Fire Protection District face hard choices in the wake of voter rejection of a levy increase. The time has come to live within the district’s means. How that will be done is now the topic of discussion.
    After initially announcing the closure of three sub-stations as part of the outline for bringing income and outflow into balance, the board has backed up. Outcry from district residents — only ten percent of whom took the time to vote, by the way — led the board to invite public input.
    As always, those who know the least about how a fire department operates are those with the most opinions. The primary opinion is that having rejected a levy that would have added $35 to the tax bill of a $150,000 property, district residents want the same service for less money. Property owners have of course been shaken by the news that if the stations close their insurance bills will be on a dramatic upward curve. Now it is being suggested that cuts that do not include shutting fire stations would be better. Residents are pointing to $60,000 that could be saved by not replacing a departing assistant chief and other savings they see as better than closing the stations. They are questioning the recent purchase of a $50,000 piece of property for another station. We do too.
    We commend the board for deciding to open the floor to discussion. While it could be said in retrospect that this might have been a good idea before the levy vote, still, it is the right way to proceed. Those who pay the bills have a right and an obligation to have input on how the books will be balanced.
    Closing the stations is draconian and perhaps not the best way to proceed. That much is clear from preliminary numbers. The ideas being floated by district residents could form a base from which the board can work. In the end, the board and chief are public servants and they must organize things in a way that suits their constituents. Having said that, it is also true that the chief in particular is a firefighting professional and his opinions need to carry great weight. The responsibility for fire safety in the district lies with the board and chief. They must make their decisions on that basis.
    The new tendency to want to run public entities of all kinds from outside is not how our system works. That is how anarchy works. It is how the post-revolution Russian navy worked. Not very well. Our system works on the basis of elected representatives making decisions in light of all the facts and a focus on public needs.
    The options need to be discussed, the public needs to bring their input and, in the end, the board and chief need to make some hard decisions based on fiscal responsibility and public safety. If residents don’t like the way it works out, there are regular board elections.
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