Apr 06, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
In an effort to provide better, more efficient services, two fire departments are talking consolidation.
Both the Warners and Memphis fire departments, which provide protection to residents in portions of the towns of Van Buren and Camillus, are nearing the end of a two-year discussion, which proposes merging the two departments.
“We will be operating with the same structure as before, but will allow the departments to consolidate our resources, which include training, equipment and personnel,” said Warners Fire Department Chief Mike Knowlton, who spoke on behalf of all the officers and members of the Memphis and Warners fire departments. “Warners and Memphis work together already and, by doing this consolidation, we will bring to the area a more unified group to serve the needs of the residents of the fire district.”
The proposed consolidation will affect residents located in the present Memphis Fire District in the town of Camillus, specifically Canal Road, Bennetts Corners Road, Bitters Road and Gillie Brook Road.
“Consolidation is necessary,” Knowlton said. “As most know, the fire service is getting smaller and, by doing this consolidation, we can hopefully show to the residents of the fire district that they have nothing to fear about no one showing up. We will be there.”
Knowlton said the consolidation would not affect residents’ fire or emergency response request and may even reduce insurance costs and lower fire taxes for the area. He added that neither fire department would lose its identity should the proposed merger be approved.
“Each department will keep its existing structure, such as chiefs and department officers, but will be under the district commissioners, who manage the district funds and operating costs for each department, which is what the Warners Fire District does now,” he said.
This would give district residents more of a voice in their fire service and protection as commissioners are elected by residents on an annual basis.
While Knowlton said the existing service is very good now, he added the merger could only improve services and make both departments stronger.
“With the enthusiasm for the consolidation that has been displayed by all members of both departments, we are excited to be able to fulfill and lead the way for other agencies to consolidate,” he said.
Consolidation discussions have been ongoing since 2009, when the town of Van Buren released a study regarding the town’s fire services.
“The proposal came about as a by-product of the town’s fire service study,” said Van Buren Supervisor Claude Sykes. “There had been some low-level discussions before the study, but it became apparent due to the study that this would be the right thing to do.”
Before the merger becomes a reality, a joint public hearing will need to be held between the towns of Van Buren and Camillus. While no date has been set yet, Sykes anticipated the hearing would be set in early May.
“This thing could be finalized by June 1,” Sykes said.
Once completed, Knowlton said both departments are planning a membership campaign to add to the existing firefighter force.
“There are many avenues that are offered in the fire department structure, not just fire fighting,” he said. “So, when you get the notice, read it and contact the appropriate department and become part of your community as all of the members of Memphis and Warners departments are.”