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To be or not to be a joint fire district

While town and village officials do not promise fire consolidation will save money, the economic factor has been a part of the discussion. The village of Fayetteville has applied for a $22,000 shared services grant through New York state to study the cost savings of this venture.

Fayetteville Fire Chief Paul Hildreth said one saving could be to purchase equipment and supplies together. Both companies are also trying to recruit more members in different ways and could share resources to increase the turnout.

"The only thing we won't compromise is the service," said Manlius Mayor Rick Penhall. He said the merger still contained many questions but, he said, "I would like to do this if it's advantageous to our community."

In consolidating manpower, equipment and services, the proposed joint district aims to improve the service to the residential areas outside of the respective fire districts that have outgrown, even doubled, compared to the size of the district itself.

"Everybody's developing outside of the villages, but yet they rely on the villages for all their services, whether it's fire or recreation or libraries," Olson said.

One reason for organizing the village of Manlius in 1813 was to generate revenue to purchase fire protection equipment, according to Manlius Town Historian Barbara Rivette in her piece titled "Sound the Alarm!" As the villages expanded, fire districts increased in size, too, to include the developing residential areas, she wrote.

"Towns were originally formed to just enforce state law locally, and the villages always maintained services," Manlius Supervisor Mark Tetley said. "But the population centers have expanded beyond the village centers, so laws made 200 years ago don't necessarily work today."

One of the remaining obstacles is getting state law passed that will allow multiple fire departments, as well as multiple chiefs, in one district.

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