Saturday, August 8, 2009

boards and budgets

Still spreader hunting. To complicate things further, we need a board meeting to decide which spreader to buy. Yes, that means I found more than one in my searching and Internet meanderings. And when you are responsible for public money in a small volunteer department, you can't just go out and spend five or six thousand dollars on equipment without getting opinions from the folks democratically elected to oversee such decisions.

Getting these democratically elected volunteers together can be a challenge. Saturday and Sunday are off limits for board meetings, Monday is training, so the meeting is tentatively set for Tuesday evening . . . provided at least three of the five board members are available. If it's nice weather, one of them will be making hay; another is working 650 km away in Winnipeg; two others are business owners and work as many evenings as possible . . . sooooo the board meeting will likely get bumped to Wednesday, then Thursday . . . you get the idea.

The funny thing is this "democratically elected" part. In normal towns with normal volunteer services, responsible citizens wait in line to do their civic duty and serve as a director on a worthy board. In Upsala, we duly call the meeting two weeks in advance, post the notice in five conspicuous places (good thing it isn't six - there are only five in Upsala), brow beat the town with admonitions . . . and show up on election night with five board members, the chief, and lots of empty chairs. Five minutes later the board walks out, elected by acclaim for another two years. Small town democracy in action.

Their reward for serving in a thankless, unrecognized position for five, ten, or even twenty years is that they get to create budgets and make executive decisions about money . . . and sort through quotes for a half dozen new and used Amkus spreaders on Tuesday evenings (or Wednesday or Thursday evenings . . .).

In the end, everyone wins . . . a lucky dealer gets some money, we get another piece of equipment, the Fire College gets their stuff back that we borrowed, and the highway continues to be protected by the Upsala Volunteer Firefighters.

Frank & Ernest

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