Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Public Safety Fair Share

Hampshire College from on high
Click to enlarge/read

Amherst Fire Department had it's busiest year ever in 2016, and with a budget of $6.3 million (plus $500,000 for Dispatch Center operations) it's one of the more expensive public services the town supplies.

But considering their professional expertise can oftentimes be the difference between life and death, not too many people who benefit by those skills will complain.

Whether your a homeless person passed out drunk in the center of town on a freezing morning or a high ranking town official suffering from heart failure their response is the same:  quick, courteous and professional.

Although fire calls are less than 25% of total responses battling The Beast is still a priority.  Anyone who has ever been a major structure fire knows all too well the devastation that results.

Amherst is half owned by tax exempt entities which shifts a huge burden on homeowners, apartments and our tiny commercial base to fund vital services. 

UMass, Amherst and Hampshire College all pay their fair share for water/sewer services provided by the town and all three have their own security/police force, but how about Fire/Emergency Medical Services?

UMass paid us $500,000 in 2016 for AFD ambulance services while Amherst College chipped in $120,000.  Hampshire College paid us not a dime.  Nothing.  Zilch.

Yes, Hampshire College was only responsible for 3% of total AFD calls but on a $6.8 million total overhead that still comes to $188,000.  And Amherst College got off cheap, since their 4% share would come to $251,712.

As did UMass, where a 15% share comes to $943,920.  In other words both UMass and Amherst College are only paying us about half their fair share.  Although a Hell of a lot better than Hampshire College who does nothing.

If Amherst College and UMass paid us those extra amounts owed and Hampshire STARTED paying us $188,000 annually, that money would allow for a desperately needed staff increase and provide funds to help cover the $12 million new Fire Station.


Anonymous said...

There are 15 churches and 12 other "religious" locations in Amherst. None of them pay taxes either, but you can be assured they use all of Amherst's come you never write a story about the churches?

Larry Kelley said...

Catholic boys don't mess with God.

Anonymous said...

As one of Larry's severest critics, trust me: he's right about the colleges not pulling their weight here. Bringing up the churches, many of which are just barely hanging on, does not change that.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Water rate will be going up- The Select Board thinks we all are made of money.

Anonymous said...

Religious orders promote a private world view-it is in-constitutional for our taxes to support a private world view exclusive order for which we are dis-allowed any public input-churches should pay taxes !!!???

Anonymous said...

The only "religious location" that has multiple calls to APD and AFD is the one that houses the wet shelter.

Simon said...

If everybody paid their "fair share" then a house with 2 kids in public school would need to pay over $40,000 per year. So maybe there's an underlying assumption that could use some further discussion.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah but our venerable public schools are the reason why are property values are so freakin' high (sarcasm).

Concerned about why said...

1. There is a lot of talk about fair share. Seems that folks want Hampshire to pay their fair share, right town to talking about percents and dollars. It would be nice to have a realistic fair share conversation about one of the towns larger expenses, education. It would seem that parents pay far from their fair share. Just like the fire services, both are a public good. Why do we feel that one service should be divided evenly based on use and the other that costs far more should be anything but evenly divided? Is Fair Share a community building concept or is it just ammo for when someone on the left wants someone else to pay more?

2. It may be worth noting that very few states have as low of a volunteer firefighter rate as Massachusetts. I was impressed initially to find out that Mass has a 56% rate of volunteer fire departments, this seems very high...until you look at national data. These percents work a lot like school grades, you are dismal below 80% and really should be above 90%. About a half dozen states have rates around this low Mass level...but nationally most states have volunteer levels at 80 and 90%. PA is 97% as an example. 97% of the departments are 100% volunteer. Volunteerism is decreasing as well, even in highly Democrat leaning areas where you would expect much more as kids are assumed to be brought up with community and volunteerism in mind.


I am curious what percentage of Amherst Fire is volunteer and what we can do to increase this lower cost alternative. The country has shown that volunteer fire departments can work, especially in more rural areas. Much could be done, especially in conjunction with the schools of higher ed locally.

It may be far easier to start a fire fighting class at Hampshire and get actual student volunteers or even possibly set up an initial response crew on campus made of volunteers that understand and are trained on how to mitigate situations while waiting for a blended professional and volunteer crew. It can be offered for credit and as we know that most of Hampshire students are financially aided it may even be able to be done as a small credit to the college for a much higher value in volunteering.

Volunteers and involving students in the actual EMS and fire fighting process seems quite fair (share) and avoids the issues of having to have public employees manage more funds.

I would also be curious if anyone has data on parent volunteering in the school system, this could also mitigate educational costs. I remember quite a bit of parent presence in decades ago, especially primary. Even then, the students knew this was helping the schools work within budgets.

So how does this proud liberal community feel about volunteering and why we do not have more of it?

Firefighter article in name link. It's even from the Huffpost, a strongly left leaning even talks about how PA needs more volunteers and used to have more, it's only at 97%.

Dr. Ed said...

"The only "religious location" that has multiple calls to APD and AFD is the one that houses the wet shelter."

It also receives a significant state grant to do so, this isn't entirely Christian Charity. It also makes quite a bit of money selling parking -- is that taxed, Larry?

I think it is time for these well-funded "non-profits" to be making PILOT payments, I think the standard should be if your people are well-paid, you can afford to pay for town services.

Matthew 22:21 -- Larry, a good Catholic boy ought to know his Bible...

Dr. Ed said...

9:55 -- SEIU killed volunteer firefighting.
Massachusetts is a state run by public sector unions, none of your ideas would ever be tolerated.

UMass HAS it's own fire department -- it's called EH&S, has two marked trucks with lights & sirens, and is staffed 24/7. It rolls on all campus alarms/fires and is dispatched by the UMPD. When the frat across from Totman burned, EH&S was the first alarm.

I consider on-campus ambulance to be a franchise, it's a profitable enterprise and hence it is the town that should be paying UMass for this privilege, not the other way around.
(If it wasn't profitable, AMR would be bankrupt.)

The fact that the AFD doesn't get the money from it's on-campus calls is mismanagement in town government. Why the students should have to pay for the monopoly is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I forgot how much the people of Mass sacrifice so that privileged folks can be even more protected in a union.

There you have it folks. You could have retired some day, but we have unions, so they will retire and you will work and watch (and you kids will work so hard they wont even be able to watch).

Anonymous said...

Just think how much better off Amherst would be if UMass and Hadley each had their own EMS service. Even at a basic level ambulance service with Amherst or Northampton acting are paramedic intercept AFD would be in a much better position.

Dr. Ed said...

No 9:31, Para care costs a lot more -- intangible costs like the stress on personnel who have someone die in their arms. Unless you are a complete a-hole, that affects you, trust me.

In many ways, the simplistic EMT runs subsidize the para runs -- while the crew is overqualified on many runs, there is no way to pay for the paras without the revenue from the runs in which they weren't needed. In other words, while the skills of two paramedics are wasted in driving a drunken UM student across the river, the town couldn't afford to have them without these runs.

It's like what being able to transfer into UM as a Junior did to UM. Large Freshman classes are cheap, upper level ones aren't. So when kids could take the first 2 years at CC and then go to UM, it caused problems.

Were AFD to lose EMS from UMass, I think the result would be the same...

Anonymous said...

Ed.,,as per your post you are a complete a hole ...

Dr. Ed said...

Hey 6:36, I was speaking from personal experience. Been there?

I think not...

Anonymous said...

Amherst waterhole hotspots should each sponsor an ambulance-give something back to the community-enough wrenching steel and mutilated DWI corpses !?@&$$$