Funding for new equipment and reduced meeting quorum approved at Fire District Meeting

Apr 12, 2021

In stark contrast with the lengthy and controversial Special Town Meeting on April 10, voters at the Wareham Fire District’s annual meeting approved nearly everything on the docket without much discussion or any objection during a speedy 40-minute meeting Monday, April 12.

Despite the chilly, overcast evening, 61 voters gathered at 6 p.m. for the drive-in style district meeting, which was held in the Wareham High School parking lot.

A few big-ticket spending items were unanimously approved, including: 

• $55,000 to purchase and equip a new command vehicle for the department

• $25,000 to conduct live fire training for all department personnel — meaning the department will rent a facility where fires can be lit in a controlled environment and personnel will run drills and exercises under actual fire conditions

• $33,000 to replace the department’s aging mobile radios 

• $33,500 to replace structural firefighting personal protective gear at the end of its useful lifespan

• $150,000 to remove and replace diesel tanks and fuel pumps at the Wareham Fire District’s fueling station, which is beginning to degrade

The Wareham Fire District Prudential Committee’s proposal to decrease the District Meeting quorum to fewer than 50 registered voters was also approved by a majority vote — though it was approved in an amended form.

In explanation of the warrant article, the committee cited covid-19 safety regulations and limitations on gatherings as reasons for concern about not being able to achieve quorum at District Meetings: 

“The inability to achieve a quorum has far reaching consequences. We rely on the voters at District Meeting to make important decisions regarding our day-to-day business, including setting the budget. Without the approval of that budget, we risk not be[ing] able to pay employees of the district or make payments on our debts.”

The committee proposed reducing the quorum to 25 registered voters, but during the meeting Selectman Alan Slavin, who is also a Wareham Fire District voter, proposed an amendment to reduce the quorum to zero voters. There is already a zero quorum at Wareham Town Meetings. 

“Back a few years ago, [the town] had the same problem because we had to have a quorum of 150 people to do our money articles, and myself and Town Counsel wrote an article for zero quorum,” Slavin said. “It’s perfectly legal; it makes life much simpler. You won’t ever have to worry about a quorum again.”

Voters adopted Slavin’s amendment and passed the amended quorum change with a simple majority vote. Moving forward, Wareham Fire District Meetings will have a quorum of zero registered voters.

Only one article failed to pass at District Meeting — Article 3 on the warrant. It would have deleted Section 9 of Article 4 the Wareham Fire District bylaw, which relates to health insurance coverage for retired injured firefighters. It was not immediately clear what the language does or why the committee wanted it removed.

According to the prudential committee’s explanation on the meeting warrant, the committee believed: “Section 9 of Article 4 of the Wareham Fire District By-Laws is flawed as written.”

Voters did not discuss the article, but the vote was split evenly — 27 in favor and 27 opposed. As a result, the article was defeated.

To see the full warrants (there was a Special District Meeting with a separate warrant that was held at the same time as the regular District Meeting) and read more about all the articles that were approved click here: District Meeting warrant and Special District Meeting warrant.