There is an issue that has recently surfaced again that should be of concern to all residents of Groton especially those of whom are more than a 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. It resurfaced in March on Talk About Groton (the Groton email list) where Water Commissioner Gary Hoglund was once again pushing hard to reinstate a Fire Hydrant Tax. This tax was eliminated about five years ago by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee because not everyone has town water or a fire hydrant nearby.
Since that time the Water Commissioners have repeatedly attempted to reinstate a tax on fire hydrants for all homeowners regardless of whether they live near a fire hydrant or not. Note that this Fire Hydrant Tax would add an additional tax burden to about 45% of the homeowners in Groton (i.e., those who don’t have town water.)
At the May 8th 2014 “Meet the Candidates Night,” incumbent Water Commissioner James Gmeiner confirmed that he was also in favor of, once again, taxing all tax payers for hydrants. At this same meeting, candidate for Water Commissioner Josh Degen said he will not support making residents that don’t benefit from having a nearby fire hydrant pay a Fire Hydrant Tax.
I recently discovered that the fire insurance portion of your homeowners insurance policy increases ~20 to 40% if you are more than a 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. In my case I am more than 1,000 feet (actually almost a mile) from the nearest fire hydrant and that means I pay an additional cost of about $220 per year in fire insurance. I believe that those of us who have no choice but to have a well and septic should not have to subsidize the cost of those who have town water and sewer and a nearby fire hydrant. Some will argue that it is a public benefit that we all pay a tax for hydrants. I disagree as I already pay taxes for a fire department plus a 40% premium property tax for my lake shore land.
The issue regarding fire hydrants is a critical one for all Groton residents if there is no hydrant within 1,000 feet of their home. It must be noted that over the years four houses burned to the ground within 300 yards of my house because it is almost impossible to lay a mile of hose and bring in enough pumpers from other towns to hook up to a fire hydrant that is about mile away in time to save a house from total destruction. The recent fire that destroyed a house on Boat House Road on Lost Lake required about 3,000 feet of hose to reach the fire. It took the assistance of three other towns to extinguish the fire.
Many people assume that if you live on a lake the fire department can use the lake water to put out a fire. This is not true since firefighting equipment relies on water pressure from a hydrant to push the water to the fire. If you try to pump water directly from a lake you are limited as to how high and far you can pump the water from the water level in the lake. This limit is typically a total of about 30 feet in elevation plus distance. There are only a few places where that is possible.
With respect to this issue and several other issues, the Water Commissioners keep stressing that they are responsible to the “ratepayers” (i.e., the ~55% of town residents who have town water). They should remember that the entire town votes for Water Commissioners and they are ignoring the ~45% who don’t have town water or hydrants while trying to tax them for not having either.