No new fire truck for Caledonia
The voters in the Caledonia Fire District rejected a proposal that would have allowed the fire commissioners to use $750,000 in reserve funds to purchase a new “quint” ladder truck. The proposal included authorizing the district to sell the existing 1996 pumper, which was expected to bring in about $50,000. Voters went to the polls on October 23 and rejected the truck purchase by a vote of 170 to 91.
The Caledonia Fire Commissioners held a public hearing on Oct. 9 to give residents the details of the purchase, including that it would be paid for entirely in cash by use of the two reserve accounts that the district has been putting money in each year.
Fire Commissioner and longstanding member of the Caledonia Fire Department and Ambulance, James Dutton, says the commissioners never got that opportunity to present the facts because only four residents (non-fire department members) showed up for the hearing.
“We are very disappointed at the vote, but what disappointed us the most, is that the residents didn’t attend the public hearing to receive the information we believe they needed to make a decision,” Dutton said.
He believes the price tag scared voters and information that had been circulating telling people that a quint fire truck would not be useful in the village. Dutton says they demonstrated the appropriate use of the quint in the village several times by borrowing the truck from neighboring fire departments.
“We demonstrated it in the village. We don’t want to spend this money if it isn’t useful or it wouldn’t work. I’m sure there would be some situations where it wouldn’t work, but I bet that it would in 90 percent of them,” said Dutton.
He referred to a structure fire that happened at a home on Jane Street on Monday morning.
“We had three firefighters on a wet, steep roof. It would have been very useful today,” he commented.
Despite our extreme disappointment, the fire department still has a job to do and we will do it. We tried to do something to make it safer to do our job,” Dutton commented.
As he responded to Monday’s early morning alarm and arrived at the fire hall to see many other firefighters responding as well, Dutton said he was proud of the volunteers for not allowing their disappointment to dissuade them from serving the community.
The fire commissioners were not obligated by any laws to bring the proposal to a public vote in order for them to move forward with the purchase, but Dutton said they wanted to have community support. He said the commissioners have no regrets that they went the route of a public vote and he says they will be meeting to decide what action they will take next.
fire department is still committed to providing the apparatus that is best needed to protect the lives and property of this fire district, and to the safety of our firefighters. We feel we can do a more efficient job with a quint,” he maintained.
“We didn’t want any misconceptions out there. We were very straightforward and didn’t hide any piece of information. We’ll reevaluate where we are and fire out what will be the best path to move forward.”