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Corinth Firefighters Snuff Budget Cut

Corinth — Members of Corinth’s fire department made things pretty hot for town officials at Town Meeting on Tuesday when they objected to a $5,000 fire department budget cut firefighters didn’t know was coming until they saw the proposed town budget for 2013-14 in the annual report.

Fire Chief Ed Pospisil wanted to know who trimmed the department’s $60,000 request and why. He went to the moderator’s lectern and explained that the 31 members of the independent department use their own vehicles and volunteer their time, regularly turn out to emergency calls in force and respond quickly to all areas of town.

“Most departments don’t get that,” he said, adding that the number of town fire calls had risen sharply in recent years and the $60,000 he submitted was what the department needed.

Pospisil said as he looked around at the 100 or so gathered at the Town Hall in Cookeville, he spotted three residents who “probably wouldn’t be here” if emergency responders hadn’t come to their rescue.

The issue touched off a round of fire department support among those in attendance, including from Steve Bailey who pointed to his prosthetic leg and said he’d have been in real trouble recently when a fire broke out at his Route 25 garage if firefighters hadn’t shown up quickly.

“I called, and the fire department was there in less than five minutes. In 10 minutes, the fire was out. Nothing was destroyed by water,” Bailey said.

“I don’t think anyone in this room doesn’t support the fire department,” resident Gary Apfel said.

Town officials, including the budget committee, “went through a process of sharing the pain,” when they struggled to prepare the annual budget, Selectboard Chairman Allen Locke told Pospisil.

“It was nothing more complicated than that. I can’t tell you how highly we think of the fire department,” Locke said.

“We do need to rein in the budget somewhat,” Town Clerk Nancy Ertle said. “We all really try at the budget committee meetings to make it fair.”

When voters ultimately considered the nearly $374,000 general fund proposal Tuesday, voters — by unanimous voice vote — restored the $5,000 to the fire department.

“Thank you, everybody,” Pospisil said as he left the meeting to a round of applause.

Voters OK’d a highway fund budget of $674,000 after agreeing to add $3,000 extra for calcium chloride for the roads.

A request for $5,000 to establish an emergency management operations center in town drew a fair amount of discussion. Emergency management coordinator Joe Truss said the plan would include a 100-foot communications tower if a planned new fire station is built.

He said emergency communications are handled now “out of my kitchen, which gets a little difficult.

“If it doesn’t get used, it won’t get spent,” he said of the request.

Several residents said the plan required more study, especially its technical aspects, and voted to send it back to the Selectboard.

Voters agreed to raise nearly $118,000 for the highway capital equipment fund; earmarked more than $12,000 for the Town Hall maintenance fund; and set Selectboard members’ compensation at $800 apiece for the coming year.

Property taxes will be payable in two portions: on Sept. 9, 2014, and Feb. 10, 2015.

The roughly 100 residents in attendance for much of Tuesday’s meeting represented about 10 percent of the town’s registered voters.

Election of officers and voting on a regional solid waste management district 2014 budget proposal of $695,000 were decided during day-long voting, with polls closing at 7 p.m.

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