TREMONT — It’s never too early to start saving. That was the message from the Fire Chief Keith Higgins, who has argued that the town should start funding a reserve account now for replacement of the fire station a decade from now.
Higgins had requested $50,000 be included in the budget in a Fire Station Replacement Reserve. The purpose of the reserve fund would be to save for a new fire station to be built in 10 years.
The board approved the draft budget March 25. It doesn’t include a fire station reserve.
Higgins asked for the item to appear on agenda of the April 16 meeting of the Board of Selectmen so he could discuss it with them. A fairly contentious debate followed.
“The board could have tabled [the vote] or asked me to attend,” said a frustrated Higgins. “I really think funding should be put away.”
Chairman Kevin Buck said, “We cut everything extra out of the budget.”
“How are we going to be at $500,000 in 10 years?” asked Higgins.
“I’m not sure that we are,” responded Buck. “We need to have more discussion. It’s not an urgent need.”
But according to Higgins, the current station is not ideal.
“We just had to kick the ambulance service out of the building,” he said.
Higgins specifically took issue with the town for allocating money to the general reserve fund instead of setting aside money for a new station. “Why save money for non-specific needs? Take care of what we need. This was a horrible budget decision. We can’t wait until year 10. We have to start saving now.”
According to Town Manager Chris Saunders, the board does not budget for the reserve fund.
“It’s just what we have left,” he said. “We need to have a [special] town meeting to approve the creation of a reserve fund for the fire department.”
The board noted that it would be easier for them to allocate funds for a new fire station if the department presented a specific plan, and Buck suggested that Higgins shop around to get a cost estimate.
The discussion ended amicably, with a commitment from both parties to work together going forward.