WESTERLY — The Westerly Fire District tax rate will increase by 6 cents to 72 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the 2018-19 financial year following unanimous approval of the new rate at the district’s annual meeting Wednesday.
Twenty-six district voters attended the meeting, according to a sign-up sheet used to establish whether a quorum had been established. Voters also gave unanimous consent to the $1.495 million annual budget presented by Fire Chief John Mackay, a spending increase of 15 percent. Stephen Greene, the district’s treasurer, said the district ended the 2017-18 fiscal year with a surplus of about $100,000.
The fire district’s future needs committee decided in May to have a 1.6-acre parcel of district-owned land on Potter Hill Road appraised, said Michael Lynch, district solicitor. The committee also determined that Fire Station 2, on Beach Street, is inadequate to meet the district’s future needs. The committee postponed discussion of a potential property acquisition pending the return of the appraisal on the Potter Hill Road property, Lynch said. The district acquired the land in 1989.
The district will fund the firefighter pension and awards funds at $20,000 and $65,000, respectively, in the budget. The two funds performed well over the past year, Greene said.
The Westerly Fire Department responded to 654 alarms in the past year, a decrease of 6 from the previous fiscal year. There were 52 structure fires with a total property damage of $604,300. The heaviest damaged occurred at fires at 2 Mohawk Court, 22 Nichols Lane, and 86 Pierce St.
Twenty-five department members completed a boating safety course taught by the state Department of Environmental Management; 21 members completed ice and water rescue training; eight members completed trench rescue training; four members completed a fire instructor course, and two members completed the state’s Firefighter I course.
New high-speed internet wiring was installed at Station 1 on Union Street to improve connectivity and the district’s board of engineers recently solicited bids for the renovation of Station 2 to include a new roof, gutters, entry doors, and enhancements to the tax office and the district’s Board of Engineers meeting room, according to Joseph F. Fusaro Jr., the department’s second assistant chief.
The department also acquired a small boat to respond to incidents on the Pawcatuck River and ponds in the district, Fusaro said.
District voters approved the purchase of a new ladder truck during the 2017 annual meeting. The new truck is expected to arrive by early October, Fusaro said.