The former director of the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District Committee said taxpayers are paying millions extra to support a system in Groton that allows multiple fire districts to control their own departments and equipment.
Alan Ackley, who was removed from the fire district committee during the annual meeting in May, said he wants Poquonnock Bridge to merge with the town so the town council can manage it and save money.
“Our intention is to reduce our taxes in the district, because the taxpayers of Poquonnock Bridge are paying far too much for those services,” he said. “There is a huge discrepancy.”
Groton has nine independent fire districts that provide fire protection and emergency services to the residents who live in the districts they cover. Poquonnock Bridge is the largest of the nine, and is a career fire department, so it has paid staff rather than volunteers.
It charges a tax rate of 5.9 mills to residents of the fire district, the highest tax rate of the nine.
But Carl Kiely, a former chairman of the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District, said the new district board does not support merging with the town.
He wrote in a letter to Town Councilor James Streeter, chairman of the public safety committee:
"(The Fire District) is solvent with no need to be taken over. The outgoing committee has held no public discussions and did not even mention it at last month's meeting."
Councilor Bill Johnson said he believes Groton should have a fire department and not independent fire districts. He said Poquonnock Bridge taxpayers should not bear the cost of services provided to others elsewhere.
“If their volunteers don’t show up it doesn’t matter, because Poquonnock Bridge is going to show up, because they have staff 24-7,” he said.
He said the system is hurting business development in the fire district because of the taxes. The district includes businesses on Route 12, 117 and one side of Flanders Road.
Ackley said the system is also inefficient; the multiple departments in Groton together have more pieces of fire apparatus than New Haven or Providence.
The town council has no authority over the fire districts unless they vote to become part of the town. Ackley and two other members were replaced in May, and do not have a majority to bring the question forward to voters in the district as a whole.
Since then, another member of Poquonnock Bridge has petitioned to increase the fire district committee from five members to nine, to try to get the votes needed to make a change.
The vote on expanding the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District Committee will be held Aug. 1.
The 2011 mill rates for Groton and each of the fire districts are listed below:
Town of Groton: 20.22 mils
City of Groton: 4.595
Poquonnock Bridge Fire District: 5.90
Mystic Fire District: 2.05
Noank Fire District: 1.19
Old Mystic Fire: 2.40
Groton Long Point Association: 2.835
Center Groton Fire District: 3.50
West Pleasant Valley Fire: 2.82
Mumford Cove: .305