1. #1
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    Default Fire Department vs Town officials- hydrant use

    I posted this in the volunteer forums here, but want to impose it into the grants sections as well because of the level of overall experience that the grant writers section has. Let's face it, we have to be involved in not only our own departments but other departments as well and on every level.

    Most of you already know I am from a small village that is overrun with art, music and historic interests. Our community was once a town with a population over 10,000 and was a top contender for the state capitol. Now we claim a population of 148 but,with an average of 5 businesses per resident.


    I am having a continuing problem with my village board concerning hydrant usage. Last Thursday I intended to run a 'make water' training drill. I posted 48 hours advance notice of our intent to open 'one' hydrant. Our department has been a little lacking when it comes to training and drills and I have been pushing for more of it.

    Last year when running such a drill, a sprinkler alarm sounded at our local live theater. After an investigation it was determined that the theater had never had the sprinkler system inspected since installation 7 years ago. Also the settings were set wrong. So the department and the town were blameless.

    Now after I had posted the notice. (the first since the sprinkler episode) I get a call from one of our village board members who has a problem with the department using any hydrant at this time. I explained that we need to train and to check our equipment. Too many reasons to list. He informed me that the water system continues to have problems in certain areas. That build up within the pipes is causing clogs in areas like the public restrooms and other areas.

    I am a guy that appreciates knowing both sides of an issue. I explained that for years we have used the hydrants without advance notice and no one has complained about dirty water or ruined clothes in their washing machine.

    This has got to change somehow. I am meeting with the town board tonight to try and express our NEEDS. That we are talking about the towns safety as well as our own.

    The last time I tried to hook up to the hydrants for a training session, I ran into a similar conflict only this time they said they were having trouble with the pumps at the water tower. I cancelled that training too. I'm beginning to get a little concerned that our town officials have a secret arrangement amongst themselves. That they want to get established that they control the hydrant use. The hydrants main occupation as I understand it is to be used by the fire department. Our town put them in to lower their fire taxes in the first place.

    Anyway, I am wondering if any other departments have had issues similar to this and what kind of position should be taken?
    I want to be fair by all means, but IMHO they are putting every person and structure in town at increased risk if this isn't resolved soon. I also want to portray a sense of cooperation with our elected town officials.

    Any advice or experience would be appreciated.
    Last edited by jam24u; 04-05-2010 at 12:42 PM.

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    Jim,

    Out of curiosity does the village have a maintenance program for the water system. Do they flush the hydrants on an annual basis? This would help reduce the sediment issue.

    We will notify the water department in advance that we will be flowing water from a hydrant whether for training or hose testing. Even with annual flushing the water can become dirty when using the system for prolonged use. Typically, we are not denied use of the water system, but sometimes circumstances come about that we may need to change our plans.

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    bugle is on the right track, they should be flushing hydrants and lines twice a year to prevent those problems, if done properly and regularly it can alleviate those problems. Who has primacy over water sytems in NE? In MO it's it DNR, while flushing is NOT a requirement per DNR they do reccomend and have guidelines established on the proper way to flush the system.

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    It's called liability and beyond a reasonable doubt. If they don't maintain the water system and something happens then someone has a problem, namely those that "control" the water. If they are true hydrants that were built and installed to provide firefighting flows, then they must be maintained as such including cleanouts and inspections. If someone's house burns to the ground because of a lack of maintenance then both their insurance company and them have a case of negligence on the part of the town for the losses.

    Now if they were just "flush points" like so many areas have and not fire hydrants then it's a different issue. Several areas have 100-200gpm plugs that look like fire hydrants but they cannot be used for dynamic supply, only fill points for tanker shuttles. Those are not counted as fire hydrants for ISO or other purposes so they technically have no requirement to be maintained as hydrants.

    All the Municipal Utility Districts around here don't want excessive training usage because it does cost money to flow water, but they've never complained about us using it when needed for training and obviously never on a fire. And they're the ones that have to maintain/inspect because it's all tied into the drinking water system too, so even larger liability if improperly inspected and maintained.

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    Been thru the small town ISO water supply problem. Except we had no public system and the idiots at a Rural Water System wanted to come in. With no provision for hydrants and would not allow us to pay for hydrants and to upsize lines (transmission main is 10"). We told them to go away.

    Making a public water supply work in a very small community is a significant "issue". Even if the equipment is brand new. Your town is slightly larger pop than mine.

    Rule of thumb is no more than 3days supply (for normal use) in storage. Water on hand will (and should) vary depending on the time of day. So a system properly designed will not have signifianct water storage for fire supression. If you have more storage in the air then run the risk of winter freeze (even if there was global warming) rapid dump of water, the ice sheet collapses in the tank, major problem. An ground level storage tank on a hill (if there was such in Nebraska) is a improvement as pickup heat from the ground to warm the water. But for sanitary reasons still need to drop the water level (like to 1/2) tank each day so the clorine residual is maintained.

    Typically 100gal/person per day usage. Likely would be less. That is max tank size likely would be 30000-45000gal. Full at 5:00am, less thru the day. You can't drain the tank.

    For small town, a dedicated fire water storage reservoir is likely the best solution. We installed collapsible water tanks I picked up for DOD surplus. When found financing replace with a 300000gal fire pond in my yard. Draft for tanker fill or lay LDH to in town fires.

    Now would be a great time to solve your water problem. USDA Rural Development presently has a large pot of $ for community projects from the Omaba slush/port fund (they like FD equipment projects). Putting the vote purchasing plan together now so time is of the essence. A hose tender with _____ft of 6" LDH would likely solve your supply problem. Perhaps would need more than 1 fire pond depending on how town is laid out. My hose tender is AF Surplus truck. Have 2 large DOD surplus electric pumps still need to install at pond. DOD surplus backup genset and hydrants.

    Whatever you do keep the Rural Water bozos out.

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    Others have hit the water system maintenance issues, but you may want to think about having drafting and water supply (tanker/tender) drills. Knowing what you know, I wouldn't want to count on the hydrants for water supply during a real fire. Best to be prepared to do a portable pond/tanker shuttle operation.

    You may also want to start scouting out drafting sites.

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    First you need to find out about the state laws for Nebraska. In Missouri, it is illegal to turn on a hydrant unless it is an emergency, or have permission to do so. Also in Missouri, if you turn it on and even though you do it properly, you are responsible for damages to the system and can be charged for the water usage.

    An argument for you to use in your meeting would be that if the system is not properly maintained, you could lose very valuable points in regards to ISO. So, you need to keep in mind what your ISO ratings is for the city and how much your rating will increase because of losing the hydrant/water points.

    If you are a 7 or so in the city and lose enough points and go to a 9, then an educated guess in regards to insurance rates for a $100,000.00 home or business would be approx. $200-$400 increase in insurance rates per building per year.

    Multiply that by each resident and business and show the city your numbers.

    "I am not a lawyer, and would advise you to contact one before you doing the following."

    I would "cover your butt" write an certified letter to the city mayor, keep a hard copy and put it in a safe. It should read something like this, Fire department requests city to repair and check hydrants/ water lines. When you and the city get sued from a insurance company because of improper hydrant and water line maintenance, the fire department won't be paying the bill. Well at least a much smaller percentage.

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    This really could be a 'can of worms' couldn't it?

    See! I was right about posting this here. I didn't get much of a chance to do proper research today concerning this. When the sprinkler issue of the past was hot, the SFM wanted to be kept up to date on what was going on. I had also talked with a water supply legal expert in Los Angeles who was very informative during that issue as well.

    Somewhere in Nebraska is a bottom line concerning who has access rights and who has the right to use or deny use of the hydrants. And if a denial is the rule, then they obviously have an obligation to get it accessable for use soon.

    I want to impress upon the board, who I meet in in about 30 minutes, that we cannot go on indefinately with not being able to hook up to a hydrant and increase our capabilities as firefighters. What is it that they say, "Train as you would respond?"

    For small rural departments, coordinating training is not as easy as it is for larger population areas. It is just the opposite. We need to train when the opportunity presents itself and for the last year when I scheduled this, someone comes running to me with an excuse of why I cant. Well at least I can begin with the shuttle operations and drafting from the Missouri River.

    The level of cooperation on my part had better be met with a level of cooperation on the part of those that keep coming with excuses of why we cant hook up to a hydrant.

    getting more upset as I talk about this. anybody got a valium?

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    Quote Originally Posted by onebugle View Post
    Jim,

    Out of curiosity does the village have a maintenance program for the water system. Do they flush the hydrants on an annual basis? This would help reduce the sediment issue.

    We will notify the water department in advance that we will be flowing water from a hydrant whether for training or hose testing. Even with annual flushing the water can become dirty when using the system for prolonged use. Typically, we are not denied use of the water system, but sometimes circumstances come about that we may need to change our plans.
    Andre, I honestly have no idea, but intend to find out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jam24u View Post
    Andre, I honestly have no idea, but intend to find out.
    If sediment in the lines is the real reason they don't want you using hydrants then they are putting themselves and their customers at risk. Sediment in distribution lines can harbor bacterialogical growth. Do you know what the age of the system is? Composition of the dist. lines? Capacity of the tower?

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    Seems like sort of an insane argument to me. Would be interested in how it turns out.

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    I had to ask to be put on next months agenda. The meeting was running late and I had to attend a political webinar at 8pm. Of course that was the same time the game started and the attendees were teasing me as I left.

    Also as I left the mayor, (my best friend) said we needed to post notices a week in advance.

    Am astonished as how this process keeps changing as it is being addressed. Am convinced that since there is no village board budget that addresses anything to do with their number one priority, (public safety), that board department heads of water, sewer and the roads are jumping ahead of the funding line and have been doing so for quite awhile.

    Now there is our state MFO (fire tax) funds which are sent to our towns government. With some further investigation I became aware of how our towns government looks at this funding. The fact is they look at it as their financial support to our fire department. When we have a project involving a larger expense, it comes from that fund and it is almost like we have to go 'hat in hand' for our own money. The towns contribution for its protection basically costs them nothing out of their pocket.

    One of the village board members over a year ago wanted an accounting. Wanting to know where the excess money left over from the MFO fund goes. back into the general fund? Why? Why is fire department forbidden to attend the MFO meetings.

    There is all kind of unknowns going on here and it is beginning to look more and more like the fire department is intentionally being left in the dark about what is actually going on.

    Opposing my town board members is not something I want to do. These people are my close friends, but there are some issues here that reek of intentional maneuvering from having to financially support our department. It has reduced our department barely hanging on without the ability to acquire much needed equipment, training and more importantly, is probably the main reason why our department had became overrun with complacency and apathy. Who wants to devote time and possibly their health to something that is going to be regarded as a joke amongst its firefighting peers. Nobody wants to be involved with a hopeless cause. Especially if the ones they are protecting are possibly using them for their own unfair advantage.

    Now I do not want to stir the pot unnecessarily. As I said there may be some valid reasons why things are being done the way they are, but the time has come for those reasons to be made known.

    Since becoming involved with the grants, our department has done an about face from where it was. We are getting new equipment that we desperately needed of course and increased membership and increased participation, but more importantly we are getting the respect of our peers. When our department was awarded the regional comm grant on behalf of our mutual aid partners, and our county officials ask for our input and help on many levels, that shot us up the ladder some more. But where we really began to stand at the head of the line was because our department began to take steps to become more compliant. Training. Record and reporting management such as NFIRS, equipment maintenance and certifications. Getting our department the largest AFG award ever in our state to an all volunteer department, put our department at the top of a very elite pile. That's somewhere that our department has never been before. Ever.

    Anyway it is important that we maintain what we have gained on our own and it is becoming clearer that our local officials should start to support us in a way that they support the lesser priorities. We need an accounting from them of what has possibly happened to our leftover funds and what the towns actual responsibilities to the fire department is and should be. We can't keep taking steps to improve and have them say we need to notify the community 48 hours before hooking up to a hydrant. Then told a week before. Then every-time we tried for over a year now to train on the hydrants, we get a different excuse why we can't every time. We need to train when we have the opportunity. It is not always as easy to set a drill in advance. Often weather steps in or an unseen event stops us. When we have the opportunity, and suddenly I can get extra bodies to attend, we need to take advantage. I get a funny feeling if I press some issues on the town about their water supply, it will be like the sprinkler issue. No annual inspections and maintenance. In short, they are non compliant and that could hurt them. I welcome an inspection because we have been taking steps to become qualified and compliant. At least we are addressing them.

    Anyway my response has turned into a rant now. I will post with an update as I anticipate surprise contacts will happen before the next town board meeting happens.
    Last edited by jam24u; 04-06-2010 at 01:18 PM.

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    Accounting is the easy part, it's taxpayer money so under the Sunshine laws they can't hide anything, same reason a fire department can't close it's books to anyone. Anyone can request the records to review at any time. I like to give people the benefit of any doubt, but when it involves things that are a matter of public record and they try to hide them, it's for a reason and not a good one.

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    Jim,

    You may want to research the state fire tax and the regulations/laws behind it (if you haven't already). In some cases these types of funding sources have specific language on how the funding is spent and what happens with the funds if not fully expended.

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    [QUOTE=BC79er;1164962]It's called liability and beyond a reasonable doubt.
    QUOTE]

    Know what you meant to say here but slight correction there bc79er( old cop in me coming out) "beyond a reasonable doubt" is only used in "criminal law". In civil tort law it is by "a preponderance of evidence" IE: the FD requested in writing to use the system, it was denied and at last week's fire we discovered that this hydrant did not work; $150K property damage losses, 1 life lost = major deep pocket theory law suit and the FD would produce their letter indicating that city was noticed about problem exisiting and they did nothing to correct it thereby transferring "comparitive negligience" squarely back on the city's shoulders. That's why OJ was aquitted at criminal trial but found guilty in civil trial.
    Kurt Bradley
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    What I meant was what would be expected to be done if "reasonable" individuals were handling the decisionmaking process. Reasonable people maintain their stuff whether it's vehicles, homes, or appliances. Reasonable municipalities maintain their infrastructure, etc. Of course if someone gets hurt then there is criminal negligence potentially involved also.

    And Karma came back to bite the Juice since the 2nd criminal trial was beyond a reasonable doubt for sure...

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    If they city council won't let you use hydrants except in a emergency then have them pay to install a dry hydrant tank.We buried a 15k tank which double the town water supply.cost was right around 4 grand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtndew21 View Post
    If they city council won't let you use hydrants except in a emergency then have them pay to install a dry hydrant tank.We buried a 15k tank which double the town water supply.cost was right around 4 grand.
    Scarborough Maine has a similar program in place. All new developments off of the water mains, the developer is required to bury a water storage tank meeting the departments specs prior to occupancy certificates being granted. This has worked very well for them. Contact Deputy Tony Attardo for more info on how they set this up.

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    That's also how a lot of stations around here get built, developer puts one one. City south of here has 6 stations and last one they paid for was Station 2. Developer adds a couple grand to the cost of each house and they're covered in costs plus better marketing to sell houses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtndew21 View Post
    If they city council won't let you use hydrants except in a emergency then have them pay to install a dry hydrant tank.We buried a 15k tank which double the town water supply.cost was right around 4 grand.
    Can you break down those costs? How much for what? I have been looking at doing this for a while, have some donated tanks, but have not figured out all the costs yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    Can you break down those costs? How much for what? I have been looking at doing this for a while, have some donated tanks, but have not figured out all the costs yet.
    1. 15k gallon Tank was donated from local salvage yard ( they like the tax deduction)
    2. Backhoe was @ $2800.00
    3. welder to patch inspection hole and install 6" pipe and 3" pipe for vent and return.
    6" pipe is plumbed 6" off bottom of tank $700.00
    4. dry hydrant plumbing and rubber boot @ $600.00
    5. tank filling training with mutual aid = priceless
    Last edited by mtndew21; 04-08-2010 at 06:45 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtndew21 View Post
    1. 15k gallon Tank was donated from local salvage yard ( they like the tax deduction)
    2. Backhoe was @ $2800.00
    3. welder to patch inspection hole and install 6" pipe and 3" pipe for vent and return.
    6" pipe is plumbed 6" off bottom of tank $700.00
    4. dry hydrant plumbing and rubber boot @ $600.00
    5. tank filling training with mutual aid = priceless
    Rob, I appreciate the above breakdown. A little hard to argue against this type of solution.

    I can't thank you guys enough for these ideas. They pretty much offer an answer to any uncooperative response from the board. I want everyone to understand that I like these people very much and a solution must be a cooperative one that is acceptable to all parties involved. The responses are kind of like those (response books) that telemarketers use to counter a non purchasing reply from a customer.

    It at least gives them and us some options to consider and will create an atmosphere of cooperation and sincere effort to come to a workable solution.

    Jeff, thanks for spending time on the phone with me tonight. I took a lot of notes. Will allow me to identify how much knoweldge is backing up their position and help identify if this is a sincere problem or a different agenda altogether. I'll post what the results are when I get some.

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    No problem Jim, if you need anything else you have my numbers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    Can you break down those costs? How much for what? I have been looking at doing this for a while, have some donated tanks, but have not figured out all the costs yet.
    Unless you have some other means, you can also put in the means to do your annual pump testing. Just a bit more piping and a place for it to discharge into the tank.

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