Looking back at the week in news

Litchfield voters will soon face a fire station dilemma

Local towns such as Litchfield have asked voters to approve the building of a new fire station for years.

In Litchfield, the Fire Department says cramped bays can no longer hold all of its vehicles, there’s no place to store the firefighters’ protective clothing – and oh, by the way, the septic system is failing.

The duties of Litchfield Fire Department, like those of any other fire department over the years, have expanded. For example, the department has two forestry trucks. It’s probably safe to say that when the fire station was built decades ago, there was no thought to the department owning forestry trucks.

However, those trucks must sit outside when not in use. If you take a look outside your window, you’ll see why that isn’t such a hot idea.

The Budget Committee doesn’t recommend an article to spend $66,000 for architectural and engineering fees for a new fire station across from Town Hall even though money for the fire station study would come from unassigned fund balances and wouldn’t have a direct impact on taxpayers.

Several committee members opposed it because there is no detailed estimate of how much the construction would cost – although that’s something that the study would determine. That seems on the surface like the perfect catch-22 situation.

Eventually, voters have to face the music on paying for upgrades such as fire stations. The time to do so is before your house is the one that’s on fire.

Independent federal agency helps keep elections fair

An independent federal election commission intended to help states with their voting systems should be eliminated, members of a House of Representatives committee voted this week.

Created after the 2000 presidential election raised questions about fairness and honesty, the Election Assistance Commission is supposed to help states improve voting technology. Its mission also is to disseminate useful information to state elections officials.

Lawmakers who voted to do away with the commission said it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. That may well be true. A quick check with a few elections officials in the states should settle the matter.

No doubt critics of the action will insist the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is trying to clear the way for vote fraud. That is nonsense, of course. Agencies that waste taxpayers’ money should not be allowed to cite their statutory missions as protection.

But given questions about the election last fall, members of Congress may want to consider whether a truly helpful federal program should be established to help states keep elections fair.