By Kathleen Sloan
Three members of the City of Truth or Consequences city commission are brand new – Mayor John Mulcahy, Commissioner Sandra Whitehead and Commissioner Jeff Richter. Two returning-members after the election are Commissioner Freddie Torres and Commissioner Steve Green.
They all attended a nearly 4-1/2-hour work session on Thursday, March 22, which had department heads give presentations to familiarize them with their work.
This week, The Herald offers the following highpoints from the first presentation. Others will follow in future issues.
FIRE DEPARTMENT –
CHIEF PAUL TOOLEY
•Fire districts in New Mexico use Insurance Services Organization (ISO), a private company, as a rating service to determine state fire fund allotments. Tooley said the scale used is one-to-10, with one being the best.
With an all-volunteer fire department, the city boasts a five rating.
Tooley said Deming and Silver City pay about $1 million a year for their fire department and have the same rating.
Scoring considers three factors, said Tooley. First, the fire department is evaluated. Number of firemen, amount of training, state of and kind of equipment, and buildings are considered. Second, the city’s water system and ability to pump are considered. Third, dispatch –in this case, Sierra County Regional Dispatch Authority– is evaluated and rated.
The Truth or Consequences fire district is about eight square miles.
•Tooley said the fire department charter dates back to 1923. It has been a 501(c)3, or not-for-profit, since 2002.
•Calls have increased greatly over the years, said Tooley, and the 25-person department has had the same number since at least 1969, according to previous-Fire Chief Mike Tooley, who added that the charter does not allow a greater number.
The force is on-call 24/7.
For the last four years, Tooley said they have averaged 120 to 140 calls per year. In 2011, the force had 148 call-outs.
•Tooley said the state fire fund is quite adequate for their needs and amounts to about $100,000 per year. The department can carry over budgets from previous years if State Fire Chief John Standefer approves it. This year, the budget started with $179,000, and $75,000 has been expended so far. Tooley said the department has been socking away leftover funds for a new fire truck, which will be purchased soon.
•At the main fire hall on East Ninth Street, there is a Class A pumper, an aerial, a utility truck (carries air and equipment) and a mini-pumper (fast response). At the Cook Street substation there is a Class A pumper, which is what the new truck will replace. At the airport is an old mini-pumper. Tooley said they will try to get the airport certified as a substation, which would mean state fire funds would increase about $20,000 per year.
•The fire department pays for its own utilities ($1,000 per month) and insurance, which covers volunteers only while on call, from the state fire fund, which is also used to purchase equipment.
•Tooley said the city pays for two line items in the fire department budget. The first is $5 per fireman per call-out and per training session, which is to compensate them for their gas and oil. That totals $12,920, he said. He wants to double that amount this budget season.
“It would mean a lot to the volunteers. It would make them feel more appreciated,” said Tooley.
The $5 has been unchanged since 1986, and the price of gasoline has risen from about $1 to nearly $4.
The second line item is for phone service.
“For some reason, we can’t pay for this with state fire funds,” said Tooley. The total is about $1,300 per year, said Tooley. They have two phone lines, one dedicated to the Emergency Operation Center.