Towns to discuss future of fire protection services

The nearly 200-page fire district study released in May for the town of Van Buren has inspired an intergovernmental meeting June 30 to discuss the future of fire protection in local towns.

The report, compiled by Public Safety Consultant Ron Graner of RFG Associates, indicated more than 60 recommendations, including the dissolution and reoganization of all current fire districts, establishing a regional approach to fire and rescue services that invites the towns of Lysander, Geddes, Camillus and Elbridge to participate, creating a public relations program that educates residents, and creating a region-wide volunteer firefighter recruitment program.

Van Buren Supervisor Claude Sykes, who organized the meeting, said it would allow representatives from the towns of Camillus, Cicero, Van Buren and Onondaga County to discuss the findings of the Van Buren study, and also to look at parallels with similar studies commissioned by Camillus in 2007 and by the fire departments themselves in 2003.

The goal of the meeting is not to jump into a regional program, Sykes said.

Attending will be Sykes, Camillus Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan, Cicero Supervisor Chet Dudzinski and Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney. Howard Tupper and Pat Dickman will accompany Sykes as representatives of Van Buren.

Sykes said he chose to invite Coogan and Dudzinski "since they have similar or worse problems than VanBuren."

The goal of the meeting will be to at least discuss the partnering between the towns and county to improve the fire protection county-wide as well as in VanBuren, Sykes said.

For Coogan, the meeting could be a sign of much-needed cooperation "all the way around."

"If there's a better way, we ought to be doing it," Coogan said. But, change would not be immediate, she pointed out.

"You have to look at the dollar and what you're getting for it, but safety is always first, so there's a lot of things to be looked at and discussed."

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