The chance to choose

Recently we heard an interesting take on living in a small, rural town. It was brought up at Lyndeborough Town Meeting by a man who was the only person to vote “No” on a series of warrant articles seeking funding for several of the town’s capital reserve funds, something that the town has used for many decades to raise money to eventually buy things like fire trucks or highway department trucks.

The man spoke after he had voted against an article to put aside money for a rescue tool to be used to extricate people from cars damaged in accidents and he gave his opinion after the town moderator had said something to the effect of, “Well, let’s hope you’re never in one of those cars.”

The man asked to be heard and he raised an interesting point, to wit:

He said that people who move to small, rural towns should not expect the same sort of services that they would get in either a larger town, like Milford. The people coming to Lyndeborough, for instance, should be willing to accept some differences, even if they incurred some risk in doing so.

He said he was against paying addtional taxes to obviate those risks because people should be willing to assume them to have the benefits of small, rural town living.

We ask this:

Should people adopt that point of view? Should they say “No” to things like rescue tools as part of the contract they make with small town life?

Lyndeborough, for instance, has a volunteer fire department, so it would take firefighters longer to get to the scene of a fire than it would firefighters in a community with a full-time department who are already in the station. Volunteers have to first get to the trucks before they can get to the blaze.

People who live in Lyndeborough or Mont Vernon or Wilton, even Milford, accept that risk and, really, probably don’t think twice about it. It’s just the way it is.

But, let’s take the rescue tool. Certainly the prospect of being in a terrible accident is somewhat lessened by rural living given that there are fewer cars on the road. So, one would think, the odds are with the driver who lives there because such things rarely happen. The same reasoning is applied to airline travel: It’s possibly the safest mode of travel and we take it for granted, as we do driving on rural roads.

Here are two problems:

Airplane travel is always the safest mode unless you’re one of the people in the plane that has trouble.

And, yes, there are fewer cars on rural roads but often they go much faster than cars traveling on crowded roads so an accident could be worse.

One can argue the point either way but eventually it comes down to this:

Are we willing to pay a little more for an extra modicum of safety? When they’re cutting you out of that wrecked car, will you be thinking about the tax rate?

So, yes, the speaker made an interesting point and clearly he is willing to take an additional risk to live in a rural community.

Here’s the dichotomy:

His concern for the tax rate was butting heads with the other voters’ desire to have that extra piece of equipment and in such cases, never the twain shall meet.

At town meeting, though, at least you get the chance to choose.