May 28, 2018

Guest Column: Fire chief addresses budget

By Kenneth N. Morton, Jr.

I read the Letter to the Editor from Mike Mullin (“Concerned about growing budget,” Dec. 19, 2013) and was compelled to respond. While I can appreciate Mr. Mullin’s position regarding increased taxes and fiscal responsibility, I do feel the need to clarify a few of his comments, and correct the misinformation given in his letter.

In 2006, Williston had a total of three full-time firefighter/EMTs. This equated to one firefighter/EMT for each of the three 24-hour shifts covering Williston. In 2006, Williston applied for, and was awarded, a one-time, five-year federal grant for hiring six full-time firefighter/EMTs, thus providing three firefighter/EMTs for each of the three shifts. This award was put to vote in March of 2007, and defeated. Three years later, the 2010 budget included hiring three (firefighter/EMTs over a two-year period (2010 and 2011), and purchasing ambulances—all to be funded through revenue generated by the ambulance service. This brought our staffing to the current two firefighter/EMTs per shift.

The ambulance was not “added by executive decision” nor was it “against the will of the people.” WFD has received tremendous support from the community for our ambulance service. Most importantly, in our fourth year of operation, we have served more than 3,000 patients who have been treated and transported to the hospital, AND, we have had two CPR (code) saves. The revenue that is generated from our ambulance service is fully paying for the two ambulances and the three personnel that were hired as a result of adding the service and is turning excess revenue back to the town for use in other areas of the operating budget.

I have advocated for many years, and will continue to do so, that WFD is not properly staffed to meet the needs of this community. Williston is the 12th largest town in the state and continues to grow (see the town manager’s FY15 budget report for residential growth statistics). Add to that the exponential growth in commercial and retail business, and Williston’s daytime population exceeds 20,000 folks each day. With population comes a greater risk, greater demands for services (call volume), and higher expectations for performance. If the town is going to continue to grow and expand at this rate, then there is a responsibility to create and support an infrastructure that can support and maintain that growth—including Fire/EMS. It does not seem unreasonable to request that some of the remaining net income referenced above be used to fund additional staff and allow us to safely serve our community. I would be negligent if I chose to ignore the need, and not request the funding sorely needed to adequately protect the Williston community.

I am proud of our volunteer and career firefighters and EMTs who responded to more than 1,900 emergency calls, and 500 non-emergency calls, this past year. I encourage anyone to visit us at the station and educate themselves about our staff, our service, our budget and how we operate. I am confident you will be impressed once you know the facts.

Kenneth N. Morton, Jr. is the Williston Fire Department Chief.


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