SJ Editorial - Balance costs without limiting safety

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SJ Editorial - Balance costs without limiting safety

Post by T on Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:12 pm

Balance costs without limiting safety

In mid-April, Larry and Carol Yates lost their Andover home to fire. They had lived there 30 years and carried no insurance.

In early May, a fire at the Irving Forest Products mill in Dixfield caused the evacuation of 40 employees and heavily damaged the planer mill. Six fire departments responded.

Later that month, two teenagers set a fire that heavily damaged the roof of a three-story building on Granite Street in Mexico. Fast response by Mexico and Rumford fire departments was credited with limiting the damage to a single building.

In mid-June, Suzanne Waterhouse suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns in a fire when her Mexico home was struck by lightning.

In Peru just last week, two workers escaped serious burns after a ruptured propane tank caught fire at the elementary school construction site.

And, over the weekend, a Rumford firefighter came dangerously close to dying while fighting a fire at a three-story apartment building in Mexico, caught in the building as the roof collapsed.

This is not a long-term disaster scenario. It is a painful fact of life that communities - all communities - grapple with accidental fires, crimes, occupational accidents and natural disasters, such as lightning strikes, on a routine basis. The people we rely on to respond to these happenings are firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel, who are the same people we rely on to direct traffic when there's a car accident, and to transport us safely to hospitals when we're hurt.

We rely on them; we're critical when we think they don't arrive quickly enough, and we're increasingly less interested in paying for their services as costs climb. Look at the demise of Med-Care Ambulance's plan to build a new garage, despite a strong case of need, because voters simply would not support the spending plan.

We're not suggesting taxpayers ought to support public safety budgets at all costs, but there is a real need to maintain adequate service without overwhelming already overburdened taxpayers.

In each of the cases mentioned above, emergency response was the result of combined departments, working together under long-held and much-honored mutual aid agreements. Given that community departments already cooperate, it makes good sense to consider consolidation of services, much the way school districts consolidated into school administrative districts and unions decades ago.

Consolidation tactics make sense because it's possible to maintain workers while trimming administration and streamlining training, facilities and equipment.

Could Rumford, Mexico and Dixfield combine into one department? Could Paris, Norway and Oxford? Could Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland? Could Buckfield, Sumner and Hartford? Absolutely. These departments already work efficiently together when responding to emergencies and could become even more efficient if they join forces.

We understand the pride carried by members of individual municipal fire, police and rescue services, but at some point pride and cost will collide - may already be colliding - and public safety will suffer.

The fact that Rumford firefighter Bill Johnston was assisting with a fire in Mexico and kept alive by Med-Care Ambulance early Sunday is proof that collaboration works. Consolidation works, too, and it's well past time for Maine towns to give up parochial control to target savings without sacrificing safety.

Link to SJ Editorial


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Re: SJ Editorial - Balance costs without limiting safety

Post by Admin on Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:30 pm

The Sun Journal got it right – again. Thanks T for posting this. I hadn’t seen it and it makes a lot of sense.

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