May 18, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Consolidation, shared services and recruitment are issues that fire departments across the country are facing, and Lysander fire district officials are taking matters into their own hands.
Members of the Shared Services sub-committee, part of the larger Lysander Public Safety Committee, have decided to conduct a study of services provided by the seven entities currently providing fire protection to the Town of Lysander. Those entities include: Baldwinsville Volunteer Fire Company, which contracts with the town to serve the Smokey Hollow Fire Protection District; Belgium Cold Springs Fire District; Cody Fire District; Enterprise Fire Company (Phoenix), which contracts with the town to serve the West Phoenix Fire Protection District; Lysander Fire District; Plainville Fire District; and Seneca River Fire District.
According to Shared Services sub-committee member Bill Merriam, who is also a fire commissioner for and member of the Belgium Cold-Springs Fire District, now is the time to bring in an independent, “fresh pair of eyes” to see if more could be done with current resources.
“Everyone involved, from the commissioners and chiefs at the top on down to the newest recruit realize there are challenges in the fire service in the Town of Lysander,” he said. “We all are trying to be proactive, responsible and accountable and believe that completing this study will provide a tool to show our strengths and weaknesses and help in delivering better service to the residents we serve.”
According to Merriam, the external look into operations by a recognized and experienced consultant will benefit residents in the following ways:
provide a realistic appraisal of facilities and equipment including locations, conditions, serviceability and life expectancy of assets and advise on maintenance and replacement programs;
compare similar sized communities to see how Lysander districts “measure up;”
point out some ways to improve the recruitment and retention of members;
make recommendations for improving individual department’s drills and training and expanding on the town wide training and drills that already exist;
and evaluate response time information and suggest ways to improve.
While municipalities in other areas have typically led the efforts for this type of study, the Shared Services committee took the reigns to prevent the study from becoming “fodder for political campaigns.”
“We have seen what comes back when a political entity seeks such a study, [namely] consolidation (bigger is better) and some number of paid firefighters,” Merriam said. “Our committee thought it best if we established the parameters for the study and stress that the underlying thrust should be that we continue to provide fire services to the town within the ‘volunteer’ system with the departments that exist today.”
While the committee wants to keep politics out of the study, as “party politics and matters of public safety do not mix,” Lysander officials have been included in discussions.
“All involved want an end product that we can make use of, not just something to throw on a shelf somewhere that’s proof that ‘Yes, we had a study done,'” Merriam said.
After receiving and considering four proposals, the committee selected Michael P. Dallessandro & Associates from Grand Island (at a cost of $27,500) to perform the study. Five of the seven departments (Baldwinsville, Belgium Cold Springs, Cody, Phoenix and Plainville districts/companies) will fund the study, according to Merriam.
“The Lysander and Seneca River districts are not in a financial position that allows them to contribute at this time, but will be included in the study,” he said, adding the Town of Lysander and Onondaga County “are also potential sources for partial funding.”
The study is already underway with consultants requesting data from the fire districts and departments. They will schedule visits to each department beginning June 18.
“Undeniably, some of the districts/departments have much more to gain from this study than others, but it was agreed that if a study of the fire service in the Town of Lysander was to be done, all who are involved with the fire service in the Town of Lysander should have a chance to participate and hopefully ‘opt in,'” Merriam said. “As the current chairman of the Lysander Public Safety Committee Tom Perkins likes to say ‘None of us are as good as all of us.'”
Merriam offered the following to encourage potential volunteers to step up and become part of something larger.
“It is my humble opinion that we must do everything we can to keep our fire protection under local control with the service close to the volunteers who ‘fill the boots.’ If the volunteers fall by the wayside, the costs of paid staffing will be monumental. Whether you are a town of Lysander resident or live elsewhere, please give some serious consideration to joining your local fire department. Admittedly, there are many demands, but unquestionably, there are many more rewards.”
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