Proposed Williston budget would help pay for new firefighters
WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Williston will ask voters on this Town Meeting Day to approve a budget that allows the hiring of some new firefighters. But it comes with a big price tag for taxpayers.
“We’ve recognized it to be a very sincere problem,” Williston Fire Capt. Prescott Nadeau said about staffing challenges at the department.
With Town Meeting Day around the corner, things could start to change. The town of Williston is proposing nine new career firefighter/EMTs be added to the force currently made up primarily of volunteers.
“With the increase in emergency calls being our primary responsibility to this community, we cannot wait any longer to put these people on,” Nadeau said.
But it comes with a price tag. The town is proposing a $1.58 million increase to the budget; $785,000 of that would be used to address staffing at the department.
Overall, the increase would raise residents’ property taxes by more than 13%.
“My office and the Select Board recognize that it’s certainly a greater increase than the town has been asked to consider for a number of years here,” Williston Town Manager Erik Wells said.
According to Wells, the average homeowner would see an increase of $115 per year or $9.58 per month.
Residents like Sand Davis say this proposal is a no-brainer.
“Certainly there’s enough buildings and homes here that I wouldn’t want a delay because they’re volunteers to be an issue. So, I think that I will be supporting this,” Davis said.
While some say the increase is a good thing for the town, others say it shouldn’t happen all at once.
“Asking for nine new firefighters at this time, with the economy as bad as it is, is really going overboard. Maybe just a couple at a time until our economy straightens out a little bit,” said Deborah Provost of Williston.
Nadeau says during the day, the department strives for four employees available to respond to a call. But with adequate staffing, he says the department could handle multiple calls at once.
“On an acute call, we might dump the entire complement of those four people on that one single call. Then you take the fact that almost 30% of our calls are concurrent, which means if an additional call were to come in, there may be no responder to take that call,” Nadeau said.
If the budget proposal passes, the department would have seven fire and EMT staffers per shift.
Voting takes place on Tuesday.
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