A Tale Of Water Rates, Fire Trucks

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Serendipity. Great word.

A happy accident — an unexpected and fortunate connection — coined by an English writer in 1754 after reading a Buddhist fairy tale — The Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Serendip.

Sometimes, serendipity can even link the fate of water rate increases and busted fire trucks.

The tale goes something like this.

Last June, the Payson Town Council approved a tight budget that included $41,000 to pay for an election in case someone protested a planned 10 percent jump in the town’s water rates to ensure the town has enough money to pay off the bonds for the Blue Ridge pipeline.

As it happens, no one protested, making an election unnecessary.

So what the heck has that to do with smoking fire trucks?

Let Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi explain — which he did at last week’s council meeting.

“One fine day we were headed up to Pine” in the department’s 20-year-old, refurbished ladder truck “when a great cloud of smoke erupted from the fire truck.”

The firefighters, who understand mysteries like smoke and internal combustion, figured the head must have cracked bad — spraying fuel around the laboring engine.

“We were able to get it off the road,” then had it towed, ignominiously, back to Payson.

Mechanics were summoned to render their judgment.

“We were hoping it was minor, but we knew we couldn’t be so lucky,” lamented deMasi, with the hard-won pessimism of a man who responds to 911 calls for a living.

The worst-case estimate?

Wait for it ... $40,000.

“Of course, it could be $10,000 — but there’s no way of knowing until you tear the engine apart and get into it,” said deMasi dubiously.

The council promptly approved the transfer of the ever-so-serendipitously available $40,000 from the election department to the fire department.

So the water rates rise, unprotested.

The fire truck rises, uncracked.

And the budget falls. And that’s no fairy tale.

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