NEW MADISON — It seems the New Madison Volunteer Fire Company knows a lot about family.
Out of its 30 volunteers, only three are without another family member that belongs or has belonged to the company. According to New Madison Volunteer Fire Chief Robert “Scoob” Cook, that means a lot.
“It shows something for our department, that people want on,” he said. “We have a completely full roster.”
To showcase the department and to ask for continued community support, the New Madison Volunteer Fire Company had an open house so the community can learn about them. The Village of New Madison is asking voters to pass an additional 5-year, 1 mill levy for fire protection in the November election. If passed, residents would see the increase on their property taxes beginning in 2018.
Cook has been fire chief for three years and in the department for 25. He said the cost to run the department has increased over the last 10 years. New Madison’s Volunteer Fire Company covers: Harrison, Butler and part of Neave townships and the villages of New Madison and Castine. It averages about 200 runs per year, covering approximately 100 square miles of fire district, protecting more than 7,700 community members. In addition, the company promotes fire safety education, by regularly providing children’s fire education programs at area schools and churches.
“For us to outfit a firefighter in a coat and pants costs around $3,000,” Cook said. “The gloves are $175, a helmet is $350 and the boots are $350. That does not include other items, such as the self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs).”
According to New Madison Volunteer Fire Company President, Assistant Chief and Captain, Randy Mikesell, the company has not asked for an increase in 17 years. The village currently has a .75 mill levy for fire protection that was passed by voters in 2000, the same was renewed in 2005, without any increase, and has renewed yearly since then. It is now asking for the additional 1 mill levy. This amounts to an additional 10 cents for each $100 of property valuation. According to Mikesell, the company has always planned ahead and works very hard to keep an up-to-date budget. A two-year study was recently completed to develop a 30-year replacement cycle budget, he said.
The plan allows the company to replace items periodically as required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), or from wear and tear. The budget includes items, such as: fire pants, coats, gloves, hose, gas meters, SCBAs and the refurbishment or replacement of the fire engines.
“We put a list of all that stuff together, with an estimated cost and we came up with a cost per year,” Mikesell said. “For example, we have saved almost $45,000 for the SCBA replacements.”
NFPA recommends that the first out engine be less than 20 years old. New Madison’s first out engine is a 2001 model.
“We have been trying to save $27,000 per year to replace or refurbish the engine in 2021,” Mikesell said.
In addition, the budget includes an estimated cost to maintain and replace the equipment on each engine to be around $4,600 per engine or $18,400 per year. The budget cost to maintain the station equipment and firefighter’s gear accounts for another $12,121 per year. Individual funds are set aside each year for these costs, said Mikesell.
“These are just a few of the expenses that follow in this 30-year replacement cycle budget. The continued increase of these items has put us further and further behind in the past 17 years,” he said. “We are now in a shortfall by around 40 percent. The increased day- to -day costs of fuel, insurance, electricity, and equipment have drastically impacted the ability to put money in the fund, for covering future large expenses. We apply for every grant we can get, but once we get a grant, we can’t go back for that same item.”
Some folks ask if the levy is to help with payroll.
“We get paid zero,” Cook said. “The community has always supported us, and it feels good to give back to the community. The levy is to help offset the budget.”
“There is something to be said about guys who are willing to run into a burning building,” Mikesell said. “That is one thing we feel pretty proud of and anything else we can do to help out in the community, because they have always been willing to support us. Our mission is to provide the best possible fire protection we can. Our income is nearly equal our expenses, which will restrict the capital improvements, equipment upgrades and growth within the company. Our desire is for a successful passing of the fire levy on November 7, but in either case, we will listen to the voters and then act accordingly.”