Fire protection, particularly in the wake of a fatal house fire, is hard to argue against. Sprinklers, alarms, hydrants and a well-equipped and staffed fire service are all important components in saving lives and property. But these tools can also be an expensive investment that are a harder sell when people are down on their luck in a poor economy.

Dayton voters recently rejected a plan to expand staffing at the Goodwin’s Mills Fire Rescue, despite the fire chief’s warnings that the towns are depending too much on mutual aid in the overnight hours ”“ which means slower response times. In the end, voters decided the increase was too much of a tax hike, choosing to take the risk rather than take the hit.

For small towns, whether or not to pay for fire and police protection of the same caliber as that of the larger cities comes down to a question of money. Of course everyone wants help at their door immediately if they call 911, but a town of 2,000 cannot spread the tax burden thinly enough to support the same level of service that a city of 20,000 can.

In Waterboro, however, voters have a chance to significantly improve safety for a large part of the town at a minimal cost. At a one-time cost of $20,000, the proposal to purchase four fire hydrants for New Dam Road is a good deal that we hope town residents can support. Unlike added staffing, this expenditure will not come up again in the ensuing years’ budgets, and the town won’t even be paying for the installation. This is because the hydrants will be servicing mainly the Lake Arrowhead Community, a subdivision of more than 3,000 residents that includes homes in both Waterboro and Limerick. The community maintains its own water and road systems, and has had four of its own hydrants installed. Another two had been purchased by the Town of Limerick. Now it’s time for Waterboro to step up and do its part on that end of the LAC as well.

It’s sad that it took the death of a Lake Arrowhead resident to cause the push for hydrants on the Waterboro end. Mary Gilman died in February when she went back into her burning home to rescue a pet, and while such an action is inadvisable in any neighborhood ”“ hydrants or no ”“ her death in the midst of the lack of easily accessible firefighting water in the area was a wake-up call.

When Waterboro voters go to the ballot box this November, we hope they’ll keep Gilman in mind and realize that this is a reasonable, fiscally responsible investment that will help save lives.

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Today’s editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski, representing the majority opinion of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].