EAST HAVEN -- The East Haven Fire Department may not survive unless more money is approved by voters at a special town meeting next month, Fire Chief Dennis Higgins said.

"I don't want this to sound like a threat, but in all honesty, shutting down operations is a possibility, Higgins said Thursday. "Realistically we can't afford to continue on $5,000."

That is the amount voters have appropriated for the volunteer fire department in the past. At annual town meeting in March, Higgins asked for $21,364. Selectmen put $5,000 in as the usual appropriation and the balance of $16,364 was listed under a separate article on the warning. Voters approved the $5,000, but defeated the larger amount by a vote of 90-45.

Voters will be asked to approve another $10,000 for the fire department at a special town meeting Aug. 22. The polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. A meeting to discuss the request will be held Saturday, Aug. 12, beginning at 11 a.m. in the East Haven Community Building.

Higgins said the cost of running a fire department keeps increasing along with requirements for training. Seven firefighters are now taking a first responder course with Lyndon Rescue. The instructors are free, Higgins said, but the books cost $75 each. To outfit one firefighter costs $1,500, he said.

The fire department receives its appropriation in November after property taxes are paid. Higgins said he has already had to borrow $2,500 against the $5,000 to keep going.

East Haven is a small town with a population of 301 and no businesses. Town Clerk Franklin Higgins [Dennis Higgins' father] announced the property tax rate would go up by 35 percent, most of it to cover education expenses.

"We would hate to lose them," Newark Fire Chief Donald Morrill said Friday. "We need the manpower to back us up. That's part of being a small town."

If East Haven does lose its fire department, Newark would still respond to East Haven, Morrill said, but with the mutual aid agreement, the town would be charged a fee. That fee could be as much as $1,000 a run, Morrill said.

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