Part II-B: How to pay for fire hydrants?

The Fire District's take on how the Town benefits

What does the Town get for its 20% contribution to the cost of the ENTIRE infrastructure to deliver to provide the high flows and pressures needed to fight fires? Part II-A discussed how the Fire District calculates the hydrant rental. Part II-B addresses Fire District's take on how the Town benefits

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In Part I, I posted: Residents living within a 1000 feet of a Fire District hydrant likely get a discount on home insurance. But most residents do not get that benefit.  When fire hits an outlying location, the fire department can set up a tanker shuttle from a Fire District hydrant to run water to the site. Is paying 20% of the overhead a fair exchange for the ability to run a tanker shuttle? 

I emailed the Town's Fire Chief to get his take on the topic but have not heard back. 

A member of the Prudential Committee did respond with a host of benefits, as follows:

Benefits to the town, other than firefighting include:

  • Fire insurance rates for anyone within a mile of a hydrant, and less than five miles from the fire station, are reduced.
  • Tracy Hall, Norwich Square, the Public Safety Building, Marion Cross School, and the Norwich Inn all are equipped with fire suppression sprinkler systems. The Norwich Fire District Water Department does not charge a sprinkler fee, nor does it charge for the water that is used by sprinklers.  If any of those buildings were to burn, it would affect the entire town.  
  • Other water systems in Norwich (e.g. Starlake Homeowners Association, Norwich Meadows, Norwich Commerce Park, Hawk Pines, etc.) depend on the Norwich Fire District water system for backup if their systems should fail. They can truck water from the Fire District system back to theirs and continue to provide water to their residents.
  • With back-up emergency generators, the Norwich Fire District Water Department still provides water even if the power is out in town.  So the Norwich Fire Department has the ability to shuttle water to fight out of District fires, whether the power is on in the Town or not. 
  • Norwich Fire District water is used to battle car accidents fires on I-91.
  • Other towns fill up with Fire District water after fighting fires within Norwich.
  • Norwich Fire District hydrant system is a value to all mutual aid Fire Departments in the Upper Valley.  Any of them may use our hydrants for fires in other towns if their water systems fail.
  • Norwich Fire Department uses many of the Norwich Fire District hydrants for training. (Rapid closing and opening of hydrants, which has occurred numerous times during training exercises, has caused the water hammer that resulted in several main breaks, costing the Norwich Fire District Water Department thousands of dollars to repair.)
  • The Norwich Fire Department uses Norwich Fire District water to flush culverts all over town for the highway department. 
  • During power outages, Norwich residents not on the Norwich Fire District water system are able to get emergency supplies of water from friends on the District water system.  
  • The skating rink on the Town Green is filled for free by the Norwich Fire District Water Department. 
  • The Norwich Fire District Water Department ensures that the drinking fountains at the rec park and the school are on and available to everyone.     

In addition:

  • The Hillside Cemetery water bill has been abated (reduced to one-quarter to one-half of actual charges, a substantial savings to the Town Cemetery Commission) twice in recent memory for leaks in the Cemetery water lines. 
    • The Norwich Fire District does not tax Town property that is within the Fire District, while the Town does tax Fire District property within Norwich that is outside of District boundaries.
    • While not directly related to the hydrants themselves, the 900-1000 acres of watershed protection land that the Norwich Fire District has entrusted to the town is worth a tremendous amount as green space and recreation area to the entire town.  


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