Approximately 30 firefighters from the Warners, Lakeside, Baldwinsville and Memphis fire departments attended an informational meeting with the Van Buren Town Board last week to discuss what, if anything, the town and fire departments could do to improve services, efficiency and cut costs.
The meeting was arranged after several firefighters protested findings from a recent fire study, which was conducted at the town's request by Public Safety Consultant Ron Graner of RFG Associates. The 200-page report makes 34 specific recommendations and 32 strategic recommendations, which include dissolving and reorganizing all current fire districts and creating a region-wide volunteer firefighter recruitment program (the entire study is available to view at townofvanburen.com).
Some firefighters felt the study was unwarranted and the findings skewed.
"I honestly feel we provide damn awesome fire protection for the town of Van Buren," said Kevin Speers of Warners Fire department.
Officials assured firefighters they were not attacking them, just looking to see if there is a more efficient way to operate.
"We want to help you with training, equipment," said Supervisor Claude Sykes. "This town board does not want to be in control of the fire departments."
Sykes added that board members aren't familiar with the day-to-day operations of the fire departments and therefore are not qualified to run the departments.
"The first step is to try and work together," Councilor Pat Dickman added.
Discussion then turned to what could be done to improve services.
Steve Erwin of the Lakeside Fire Department said his department had a good recruitment program and retention of crew. However, he questioned how his department's good fortune would benefit other stations, specifically the smaller department of Memphis.
"I don't know how good recruiting for us or Baldwinsville is going to help Memphis," Erwin said. "Memphis is too far for Lakeside to recruit for."