FIRST ON 3: Wilmington’s budget concerns highlighted in New York Times

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Submitted: Tue, 07/05/2011 - 1:25pm
Updated: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 2:39am

WILMINGTON, NC (NEW YORK TIMES) — When Engine 5 pulled up to a burning house on Woodlawn Avenue early on March 19, the firefighters were told that a man might be trapped in the back left bedroom. As two firemen trained a hose toward that corner, Capt. Don Ragavage crawled through smoke and flames to search for the missing resident.

It was an inopportune moment for the water pressure to plummet. But that is what happened when Engine 5’s motor, strained to the limit by 16 years and more than 100,000 miles of hard service, abruptly sputtered and died.

Only a month earlier, the fire chief, Buddy Martinette, had lobbied the City Council to replace the cantankerous engine at a session devoted to the latest of Wilmington’s six consecutive budget gaps.

“The mechanics really don’t think it will make it,” the chief warned at the time.

“You need another mechanic,” shot back Charlie Rivenbark, the Council’s foremost fiscal curmudgeon.

Mr. Rivenbark was not smiling, and once the scattered snickers quieted, none of his colleagues took issue. The fire truck fell off the table for the fifth year in a row.

Wilmington, N.C., is not Camden, N.J., which laid off half its police force this year. It is not Detroit, which is closing half of its public schools.

But like local governments across the country, the City of Wilmington has been demonstrably diminished by five years of unyielding economic despair. That a place like Wilmington, until recently a real estate boom town, would defer a purchase as essential as a fire truck for even one year, much less five, speaks to the withering toll.



  • B. Wms says:

    What a pompous, brazen, irrresponsible comment to make. It seems no one today, even politicians, can resist the urge to be a smart-ass. And being a smart-ass ina council meeting is unprofessional and ungentlemanly. See you at the polls, Charlie, and I am one of the few who actually vote.

  • taxpayeriam says:

    With all the taxpayers money spent on parks,bike trails,convention center,downtown parking,and parties for events we could have replace the fire engine fix the pot holes funded the school system repaired the city-county dump not caused a increase in water and sewer cost they helps every taxpayer not just the few downtown or other special interest groups.This government control now needs to be replace with a common sense type of government the give the taxpayers more say so in how the money is spent.GOVERNMENT FOR ALL THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE

  • rocketdog says:

    I hope this firetruck isn’t needed at any coucilmembers houses. Ridiculous!! This reminds me of how Jason Thompson bashes the fire department constantly…what is up with you pols? Firemen are a lot more important than that stupid convention center, at least to the citizens that live, work and try to pay taxes here.

  • Guest338855 says:

    Has anyone investigated why the fire engine’s engine is shot after only 100,000 miles? Most diesels can make it to a half-million miles or more.

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