Fire department or association?

Tuesday June 18, 2013

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

The town had its annual meeting on June 11 and some interesting items surfaced. One of great concern to me as a taxpayer is the definition of the Lanesborough Firemen’s Volunteer Association -- or is it fire department?

Articles 6 and 7 asked the taxpayers to purchase a forestry fire truck for $50,000 and a new vehicle for the fire chief for $35,000. My question to the fire chief, through the moderator, was why the fire association didn’t use some of the net cash ($346,106) it was holding under the association-filed income returns of July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. I was quickly told, via the moderator, that the business of a private, nonprofit organization would not be discussed.

I also asked who was going to own these vehicles. It was said the town will purchase them. Interesting. The taxpayers are going to buy them, they will be used and stored in the building of a private, nonprofit organization’s building, exempt from income taxes and property taxes, which the town has a lease agreement with, but not owned by the town, and then referred to as the fire department. This money represented in the association’s tax return is derived from the taxpayers, whether it is from the annual solicitation, bottle/can collections, grants from state or federal funds, or from death proceeds left to it, and of course, interest on this money from financial institutions.

The question is -- is it a town department, a private non-profit institution or both? If both, then why are they afraid to post these funds with the town’s annual report, allowing the taxpayers to see how and where their money is being used? The figure of $346,106 can be found under Lanesborough Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Inc., Lanesborough, MA 10237 from 990-EZ.

I am not against the fire association or department, whichever it may be. I believe the men and women do an outstanding job as volunteers. I just feel that this money should be opened to the taxpayers’ review and not hidden, as has been the case for years.




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