On paper at least, being a Mariaville/Otis firefighter sounds like a tough job.
Let us outline the specs. Pay: zero. Hours: erratic. Workspace: cramped to the point of claustrophobic. Training: required regularly and on your dime. Responsibility: enormous.
Oh yes, and if you need to use the facilities, just mosey on out to the outhouse. We hope you brought hand sanitizer.
No wonder it’s hard to recruit volunteers.
So, it seems that a request for $750,000 for a new fire station, while no small sum, is modest in comparison to the demands put on volunteer firefighters. As Deputy Chief Karen Murray put it in an article in last week’s American, “We’re not asking for a station that’s the Taj Mahal.”
The proposed facility would feature such luxuries as running water, adequate space for the department’s trucks and a location better suited to serving both communities.
Mariaville and Otis residents owe it to their first responders to really listen to their needs. It may be that a three-quarters-of-a-million price tag is too great a pill for taxpayers to swallow at this time. If so, the towns should seriously consider other options, including postponing the project a year or two to save or raise money.
Also something to consider: How might rural fire departments collaborate to address such concerns as aging facilities and equipment, increased training requirements and dwindling volunteers? Otis and Mariaville have already teamed up and most departments have mutual aid agreements to respond to emergencies in other towns. Could that spirit of cooperation go even further? Would it make sense to have a county fire department with a large central station and smaller outpost stations? It’s worth thinking about. As taxes continue to creep up without a corresponding increase in income, municipalities need to aggressively seek ways to provide services more efficiently and at less cost.
Whether the proposed Mariaville-Otis fire station comes to fruition, volunteer firefighters there and everywhere deserve our appreciation and support.