1. #1
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    Post Help! City council is taking OUR money

    I work for a small volunteer department, and recently we have added a $3 voluntary donation on the water bills. Ninety percent of the citizens are currently contributing giving us about $4000 per month. The money was primarily supposed to go towards new turnout gear for the department. We have recieved several quotes for sets of gear for 20 members, all of which have low interest rates and affordable monthly payments. The problem is that the town thinks this is too much money to be spent and has decided that we can only purchase three or four new sets. This creates a problem when all 20 members need new gear. We are currently using gear that is 20-30 years old. Most ff's have holes and tears in their gear and are told that "they will have to make do". Does anyone have any ideas on how we can make these council members see the need for proper protective equipment?

  2. #2
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    Get the OSHA regulations out that apply to your state and NFPA guidelines. Sometimes there own insurance company will not like that they are not taking care of "employees" well. Even fully volunteer departments need to have insurance.

    The next thing would be to take them to a training center or live burn and put them in your 20-30 year old gear and let them get close, not too close but so they feel the heat.

    Are you rated by ISO? I know of a dept in my state that got real support real quick when their ISO rating was going to be a 10, unrecognized dept. when they were a paid dept. Mostly because the city did not keep up the trucks.

    The first thing is to try to work with them and explain. Don't nuke them or start a huge political mess at first. If they don't wake up the people that elected them can have a big say on where their money is being spent.

    I thank God everytime I hear of things like this. We have pretty good support from our taxpayers. We have $29,000 worth of turnouts on order right know.

    If it is as bad as you say it is a safety issue and you can make due by being defensive for all fires. Don't get someone hurt or killed if they do not want to provide safety PPE.

  3. #3
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    I am wondering, when this new $3 charge was implemented , how was it listed on paper as to the use of it? what else is it supposed to cover ?was it a public vote or just implemented as a new tax/fee? Is your city council you fire board as well ?
    They say they only want to buy 3 or 4 sets of turnouts, so that takes care of almost one months worth of the $4000,since good quality gear can be bought for around $700 or 800 a set. what are their plans for all the rest of it. I would recommend pushing for ordering 3 or 4 sets per month as the money comes in and replace the gear from the worst to the best and not have to use any kind of a loan.
    their actions sound fishy to me.
    I agree with chiefDog, wave some Osha and NFPA guidlines in from of their faces. By not replacing your old gear, they are not providing a safe working environment. If you go by NFPA standards, all gear made before Jan 2000 is out of compliance. Ask them if they would rather have a large workmans comp or insurance claim or be asked to help pay for burying one of their firefighters. If they refuse to use this money for updating the dept and that is the primary use it was implemented for, then start a petition and get the public outcry started. When is the next election anyway?
    I will say this, it is good that you at least have some turnouts,and i hope you get new, safer gear to replace it, but just remember that there are approximately 30,000 firefighters in this country that dont have even the Basic P.P.E. they should have and many in your own state. If your old gear is useable at all ,either find some of these depts yourself or contact Helping Our Own or myself and we will get the Alabama coordinator on it. I think everyone should have P.P.E. but many depts will never have it if they dont get handups from others. It is scary enough knowing that firefighters are facing fires with older PPE , but even more scary to know that thousands are doing it in bluejeans and t-shirts.
    Good luck and give us any more details about this situation that you can.
    Thanks, Capt Tyler Sitzer.
    Weiner Vol Fire & Rescue Dept, Weiner, ARK
    www.fire-ems.net/firedept/view/WeinerAR
    www.helpingourown.org

  4. #4
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    The $3 charge on the water bill is strictly voluntary. Citizens have the option of not paying if they do not wish to do so. We placed flyers around town stating that the dues would be used for personal protective equipment and other neededfire equipment, then it was presented at a council meeting and there was no opposition from the public. Since the city does not budget one dime towards the fire department, this is our only source of income. According to a previous mayor, "The Fire Dept. does not make me money, so I won't put any money into the Fire Dept. The Police Dept. makes me money, so I put money back into the Police Dept".

    We have checked with several companies, all of which are willing to provide 20 sets of gear at low interest, low monthly payments(about $300-$400)per month. Our only problem is getting the mayor and the council to let us spend our money.

    The only thing I fear is that if we involve the public, the donations will stop, and we will be left with nothing.


    P.S. The voluntary fire dues are placed in the city's general fund account. In the begining, we had terrible problems getting a monthly report of monies recieved and monies spent. We were planning on electing a Secretary/Treasurer to keep up with the amounts, however, we were told by the councilman who represents the Fire Dept. that that was "Not a good idea".

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    first let me ask if i may, how much will that equal out to per set of turnouts?
    I think they might have a loophole by this being voluntary but it wont hurt to check, I believe in many states any money brought in for a specific purpose is supposed to be put into a seperate account and not the general fund. sounds like they are wanting to dip into it for other purposes, and maybe say that was a fee for handling it. at least a quarterly statement is the publics right to know as well.
    not bringing the public in to this may be wise for now, because like you say it may stop the donations if they think it is just a typical political ploy for money or isnt going toward the purpose it was advertised for.
    I hope your current Mayor doesnt have the same attitude as the last one, you could show that the fire dept saves money by keeping the ISO class lower and saving x amount of dollars per household per year , of which can be put into the local economy, Also by the amount of property and lives saved each year. and a town with a dept has a better chance of getting business and industries to come to town.
    Maybe this is one reason he isnt Mayor anymore ?
    I do think a peacefull settlement should be tried for first, but it may have to come to some heated discussions at a council meeting to get any results.
    we have what we call city stickers, every Jan all people in our city limits must pay $5.00 per vehicle they own and it goes to the fire dept only, it is put into a seperate fund on its own and is earmarked for new vehicle purchases only.
    we also get Act 833 insurance premium turnback money from the state every quarter and it must be earmarked for a specific purpose and put into its own account or it has to be spent within one year or we lose it. we put it into a fire dept equipment fund. whcih covers all equipment, gear and vehicles.
    all donations are put into the fire depts own business account, All of these accounts are interest bearing checking accounts .
    I think your situation bears more investigation and i hope it turns out for the best for you.
    Tyler

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    I don't mean any offense here, but please take this advice from someone who comes from NJ, the land where politics is a contact sport.

    The mayor and the boys saw you guys coming. They let you generate a new revenue stream thinking that you were doing the right thing to make your FD better (which by the way, is a great idea and a great way to raise money). However, when oush came to shove, they won't give you the money. Why? Because they never intended to give you the money!

    The mayor is an idiot! His comment about making money says it all. I'll bet the money the PD makes is from a one stop light speed trap that is infamous for it's unfair traffic enforcement.

    They also think you are naive, good ol' boys. (Up to now, they might be right). They don't want you to elect a treasurer because a treasurere would figure out the scam.

    Time to get tough dude. Here's a couple of things to do.

    1. Demand your money IN WRITING! CC all members of the state legislature from your area. Put in writing the complete history just as you wrote it on here. Make them respond to you IN WRITING.

    2. Contact the State's Attorney office in your jurisdiction. Advise them IN WRITING of all the details of what is going on. Find out if the town council is violating the law.

    3. Go to the press. Make sure the people who are voluntarily donating their hard earned money so they can have a top notch FD know where the money is going and what their mayor feels about their FD. Take no prisoners.

    4. Start thinking now about which FF you are going to run for mayor and council next year. Start strategizing now about how the campaign will be run and who will run it. I'm serious. The glory of America is that when we don't like what our elected leaders are doing, we can remove them.

    Good luck, keep us posted here on how you are making out.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  7. #7
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    Actually, the water board collects a small fee for collecting our money(The mayor also happens to be the head of the water board).


    This small town(really has one stop light, no joke), for some reason is not concerned with growth. Several large industries have came here looking for a place to build and were told that there business was not needed.

  8. #8
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    OK then,
    do what George said AND pass a dept SOP/resolution, and find out the legalities of setting this up as as annual subscription payment of $36 per year per household ,elect a treasurer and board to monitor it, comprised of half firefighters and half general public,with checks made out and addressed to the fire dept. then set up a good account to put it in. your town sounds alot like ours used to be like, except we dont have a stoplight yet.
    we are a 16 member ,all vol dept, covering our town of 760 and a 150 sq mile area with a total population of 2,500. we have about 10,000 to 15,000 a year budget to work with and we get about half of it from unsolicited donations. We also do Ems first responder and it is responsible for most of our good P.R. even though it takes up about 80 percent of of runs and seems neverending sometimes, We have been fortunate to have 99 percent of the public in our corner all the way and if you can keep the public behind you by showing the benefit to them,and doing this unselfishly and not because you have to, then you will be successfull in most anything you want to do with your dept. Public opinion is worth tons for a fire dept.
    i think the Mayor and water board need to be investigated.
    Tyler

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    Let's try and pin this down. You say that the "Water Board" collects the donations. Is the "Water Board" a legal entity or just a Town dept like the Highway or Police Dept? When this program was started was there any written agreement between the "Board" and the FD?

    By law (both Federal and State), the "Board" and the Town must produce on request their audited financial statements. The "Board" should be able to produce a financial statement that says we sold 100,000 gallons of water and collected $5,000. dollars. And by the way we also received $750. dollars in contributions for the FD. Unless the "Board" is part of Town government, it has no right to turn over your money to the Town. That's basically embezellment.

    You need to have an open civilized discussion with both the Board and the Town and then go back to the public if they won't play fair. The public has to know what's happening because it's both of you being screwed. Keep us informed.

    By the way, with a possible revenue stream of $48,000 per year, you have set up the FD as a non-profit corporation with the IRS - right? The rules about financial statements and accountability also apply to you. When you're playing with that kind of public money, you want to have a responsible Treasurer and an outside Auditor available to bless your records periodically.

    [ 01-03-2002: Message edited by: Mary Ellen ]


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    i must agree with george. take no prisoners something has to be done. if ur not getting the money u were promised then i think ur mayor (who seems like an a**) needs a rude wake up call.
    "Let's Roll." Todd Beamer 9/11 first soldier in the war on terror

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands ONE NATION UNDER GOD indivisible,with liberty, and justice for all.

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  11. #11
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    The next city council meeting, take every firefighter, apparatus and the news media, print and television and go to the city council meeting. Make sure that you are on the agenda. George is right, you mayor does not have too much common sense. He may get an atitude adjustment if everybody shows up. He may never run for office again. After all every firefighter as well as thier family members and other kin vote. This could be a pretty good per centage of the town's population voting.
    Larry

  12. #12
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    By gawd it sure grinds my ***** when cheap useless beauracratic idiots like municiple governments get in the way of protective services. In our dept. we don't have a piece of PPE that is more than 5-6 yrs old. Must be nice you say, damn staight its nice because our fire administration realizes the importance of keeping thier FFs safe by supplying them proper gear to wear. When it comes time to put a new fancy set of steps on city hall or getting the damn dawg catcher an new van to carry his strays around in, the city fathers bend over backwards to accomadate them, but it seems all to often the only bending over backwards they do for the fire service is to stick thier heads farther up thier *****. What do you think would happen if they tried to pass off a pair of flannel undies to the local law enforcement as a flak vest. They would get shot and ******ed on by the very people they tried it on.
    Some times I think it is the fault of the fire admin people that deal with the city fathers, because they all to often take too much crap and NO as the only answer to many of thier requests. Its time that Chiefs started pushing that crap back because we all know that crap does run up hill if you push hard enough. Start taking control of your situations and let it be known that YES city hall is a bunch of cheap buggers that are putting the lives of FFs in peril because of thier inaction to be progressive. Start kicking the city fathers in the ***** to get them moving and most assuredly in the proccess you will knock a few teeth and you know that will get thier attention because it will alter thier looks one way or the other. Maybe I sound like I'm ranting but we FFs have a dangerous enough job to do without beaucrates adding to it by sidestepping thier responsibilitys of providing safe PPE and equipment to do the job. Wake up political America and get on the job.

  13. #13
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    If the Council agreed to this in a meeting, then I would get the minutes from that meeting, contact the State Attorney General. I would also make sure the local press gets wind of what is going on. Nothing changes a politician's mind quicker than bad press.

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    It's funny how the Mayor of this community says "The Fire Dept. isn't making me money so I'm not putting any money into the Fire Department" Yet he goes on to say "The Police Department makes me money so I'll put money into the Police" ---- Great, Until his house Burns Down or someone close to him has a fire than he'll be asking "Where were you guys?" -- This mayor likes to use "me" in the sense that the town is his. I see why he is the former mayor
    ***The Opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect those of the Department to which I am a Member ! ***

    Stratford Fire Co. # 1.."Any Job ~ Any Place ~ Any Time"

    Check us Out www.stratfordfire.com

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    Hot dang. I agreed with George on a topic for once! What is this world coming too!?!?!

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    Send Dr. Harry Carter after them! He does recommendations for departments and more often than not any recommendations he makes get attention. Bringing in OSHA and the NFPA works too. Make the system work for you.

  17. #17
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    I am happy to anounce that the mayor and council have decided to let us purchase our much needed gear with our money. Thanks for all your responses, you really helped a lot. I don't know what brought about this change of heart....possibly a call to their workers comp ins. company? I find it hard to beleive that they changed their minds because they actually care. Whatever the reason, I am glad. I will try to report back when a decision is made on what we are going to do with our old gear that is still usable.

  18. #18
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    Whats this Guy want you to do fine someone because there house caught on fire or start chargeing the residents for services.
    Be prepared for a fight have all your information in writting. Its obvious this guy wants control over all the money. You need to get rid of the mayor and all his cronies. If all your getting is a runaround then its time to call in the hounds. Start talking to the local media get them on your side. Show them your gear and equipment. Tell them how old it is and show them NFPA and any other standards. If your gear is 20 to 30 years ols its definetly out of date. They shouldn't be telling that you can't spend money on new gear. Your the ones risking your lives not them.
    I do like the idea of takeing them to a structure burn. Let them expierence first hand how inadequite your gear is.

  19. #19
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    bvilleff, let me know what part of Alabama you are in so I can keep a lookout for your lowdown mayor if I happen to be going that way.

    ---------------

    FTM-PTB-RFB

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