Published DateTo the editor,
I've been reading all the hysteria about Gilford's ongoing fire truck soap opera. Of course the Gilford Board of Fire Engineers, now the active political wing of the Fire Department, is making sure to keep the hysteria at a fever pitch. The simple fact that it's nearing voting day means the voter brow beatings are about to get worse. The politicians need to make sure the Gilford voters are taught a lesson for saying "no" to them. Seeking out the weakest link, the Fire Engineers send Selectman John Obrien to do their bidding.
Like a Monday morning quarterback, John boldly explains the obvious and then deciding not to waste a good crisis, he takes shots at his political enemies. He begins by explaining why the selectmen voted to not support a new truck, by saying "we bought into it". Now there's the sign of a true leader! He continues by saying that 570 man hours and $70,000 has been "wasted" fixing the old truck. Let's assume for a moment that his numbers are correct (though I'm told they are not). Rumor has it that the work that has been performed on the old fire truc, by the DPW, is exceptional and once the new pump is installed this could be the best truck in the fleet. The last time I checked, Gilford didn't hire an extra DPW person to fix the truck and Gilford isn't planning on getting rid of anybody at the DPW upon completion of this truck repair. Having a person at the DPW who regularly maintains the fleet of fire trucks is the best way to protect our investment and assure the trucks are ready when needed. If the out of pocket costs are only $70,000, then a significant savings has been realized over the cost of a new $450,000 truck.
We also came to realize during the public hearing process that no maintenance records have been kept on the fleet of fire trucks. The fire chief agreed this needed to be addressed and promised to establish a "maintenance log". However, sources say the fire chief has abandoned his promised to establish such a log. I would challenge Gilford resident Mark Corey to look into the maintenance log situation because it was he who stood tall in front of the doubters to defend the chief's promise to fix this problem. You would think the Board of Fire Engineers would have an interest in seeing this promise through to protect the town's investment and assure the readiness of Gilford's life safety vehicles however it appears there isn't any political value in doing so. My guess is that everyone in the political realm is willing to give the chief a pass on creating such log. Holding Gilford's bureaucrats accountable on their promises has never been "the Gilford way".
A part of me was hoping the special ballot in September would have resulted in buying a new fire truck. After all, in Gilford, the only way to end the constant drama is to just give them what they want. That said, I'm having a problem with the current news line being offered. To steal a famous phrase, I think their story requires a "willing suspension of disbelief". There are just a few things that do not make sense. According to their own statements, if the special vote to buy a new truck had prevailed, they still wouldn't have the new truck. Of course, if the vote had prevailed, Bill Ackerly and John Obrien wouldn't be berating the voters or the "savers". Instead, they would be working professionally to solve the problem of getting the front line attack pumper back in action, until the new fire truck arrived. The citizens of Gilford never would have heard a peep.
Many citizens of Gilford have often asked me why the Gilford Board of Fire Engineers exists. I would assume that at one time it was created to keep the politics out of the Fire Department's business. If that is true then the purpose has clearly lost its way. The board is simply another layer of politicians lobbying for the Fire Department. I think the fire chief would have done a better job of advocating for his own needs as opposed to a joint assault with the Board of Engineers. To the point, Mr. Ackerly incorrectly stated that the new fire truck should have been replaced in 2012 per the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP plan is simply a guide to provide a long term picture of potentially large capital purchases that could cause large untimely jumps in the tax rate. Just because an item appears on the CIP list does not mean that it is automatically purchased. It simply means that it's time to start talking about the disposition of the item. The fire truck is not the first item that wasn't replaced on the CIP list, in years past. Distorting the function of the CIP list is just a glowing example of pushing a political agenda.
I would have been happy to add my signature to a petition Article to allow a vote on the elimination of the Board of Fire Engineers. Passing such an article would put the budgeting control of the Fire Department in the hands of the selectmen where it theoretically belongs. Unfortunately, with faux leaders like Selectman Obrien, we might as well take our chances with the Board of Fire Engineers. Beside the point, what would Gilford do without the constant political drama?