Shorthanded, Cavendish FD seeks way to shut down

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With just five members remaining on its roster, the Cavendish Fire Department is “seeking a way to close out the department,” according to Cavendish Fire District #2 Prudential Committee chair Stu Lindberg.

Stu Lindberg, chair of the Cavendish Fire District #2 Prudential Committee tells the board that it is seeking a way to shut down. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

At the Cavendish Select Board’s monthly meeting, Lindberg asked members to appoint Scott Ranney to replace David Burgess who has stepped down from the Prudential Committee, which is the decision-making and taxing body for specific issues within the fire district.

Lindberg went on to say that the department’s membership has declined from 12 members one year ago to nine a few months back to the current five while at the same time call volume – especially medical calls – has risen dramatically. Lindberg indicated that the situation is unsustainable.

He added that the remaining members are “in it until the end,” but “there’s no sense staying open if we can’t respond.”

Pointing to the department’s assets – including older fire engines in good mechanical shape, a building that’s also in good condition with no debt and almost $100,000 in the truck fund, Lindberg said the district is healthy fiscally.

‘A huge process’

Lindberg told the board that the process of dissolving the organization or merging it with District #1,  which operates the Proctorsville Volunteer Fire Department, is complicated and could take as much at two years to complete.

“I’m just one guy, and this is a huge process,” said Lindberg.

Jenny Prosser, general counsel and director of Municipal Assistance for the Secretary of State’s office, confirmed that the process can be complex.

A fire district is a municipal entity separate from the town with voters who must approve a dissolution or a merger. If the district also has a governing charter from the State of Vermont, legislative approval of the change will also be necessary. And if the district was incorporated, a formal dissolution of that entity will be necessary.

Cavendish Engine 3 on scene at the March 4 fire at the Benoit residence

In the case of a merger of the two Cavendish districts, the voters of both would have to approve the merger and the appropriate legislative action would be needed. Both the Cavendish and Proctorsville fire departments have been incorporated in the past although the latter corporation is listed as “inactive” in the Secretary of State’s records.

Lindberg said that if the department were to close, he and other residents would be far enough away from a fire station to see a substantial increase in their homeowners insurance. Board chair Bob Glidden, who is also the chief of the Proctorsville department, said that as long as there was one truck in the Cavendish station, that would suffice for the insurance.

During public comment, Cavendish resident Margo Caulfield suggested that the board look into working with Golden Cross ambulance to locate one of their units in Cavendish to improve service and cut costs. Caulfield pointed to the slow response times from Ludlow ambulance and the need to call mutual aid from Chester and even Londonderry for calls in Cavendish.

“Ludlow wants $50,000 and Golden Cross wants $12,000,” said Caulfield.

As Lindberg finished, Caulfield suggested that town look into putting a Golden Cross ambulance into one bay of the Cavendish station.

Lindberg and Caulfield blamed the lack of emergency services volunteers on a loss of younger residents and businesses.

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  1. Stuart Lindberg says:

    It would be nice if both the Vermont legislature and the U.S. Congress could pass some legislation offering a substantial tax deduction for active volunteer Emergency Medical Responders and volunteer firefighters. $4000 per year in a tax deduction could go a long way in allowing good citizens to meet the demand for these essential services.