Hopkinton is a unique town in many ways, but at the same time similar to other communities.
Hopkinton is the only town in the Westerly-Chariho area that has two ambulance organizations located in it. They are the Hope Valley Ambulance Squad, the older one, and the Ashaway Ambulance Association, the newer. The latter was formed in the early 1970s.
Historically the fire districts have stayed out of funding ambulance matters. Government funding has come from the town for both ambulance organizations. The Hope Valley Ambulance Squad has also received funding from Richmond. That ambulance organization covers Richmond and part of Hopkinton.
We have seen the unusual step taken by the Hopkinton Town Council of more than just automatically giving funding to the Ashaway Ambulance Association, but of working with issues that the association had. They included such things as a business plan and nepotism policy. One of the things I just learned was the state legislative grant check of $4,000, obtained by State Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, had to be reissued because it was lost.
Just last month, by a one-vote margin, ambulance funding was rejected by voters at the annual fire district meeting in Ashaway.
A petition was circulated and a special fire district meeting is slated for Monday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m., at the fire station on Main Street in Ashaway. Eligible voters are registered voters in the Ashaway Fire District, as well as anyone who is a property taxpayer in the district. Clearly, those favoring the funding did not get their vote out at the annual meeting. Now there is a chance to have another meeting, when the vote can be stacked, and those who did not attend the annual meeting can vote.
My vote will be against the proposal. Voters need to consider these facts. If this votes passes, property taxpayers in the part of Hopkinton that is in the Ashaway Fire District will be supporting the Ashaway Ambulance Association through both fire district taxes as well as Hopkinton town taxes. In addition, part of a property owner’s Hopkinton town taxes will be paid to the Hope Valley Ambulance Squad. Even if this scenario does not concern you, are you confident that the Ashaway Ambulance Association has all its issues corrected, and can maintain that?
Another question that should be answered is, is the territory in town between the two fire districts the exact coverage territory of the two ambulance associations? Will the present board of fire commissioners provide the oversight role in funding that the Hopkinton Town Council has shown? The fire district has a three-member board that should be enlarged to five members. In addition, the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire District prohibits active firefighters being on their governing board. That is something that should at least be discussed as a charter change in our local fire district.
As one active in local politics, I understand my own personal political liability in submitting this letter. Doing well in the Ashaway section of town is important in my electoral success. But what I said deserves to be said, and I said it.
Scott Bill HirstAshawayThe writer is a former officer of Ashaway Fire District and is currently a town council candidate and Hopkinton town moderator.