Jan 23, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
An uneasy economy could be to blame for the restructuring of the East Syracuse Fire Department into an independent district.
Fire officials have been working with a Buffalo-based fire services attorney to look into the option of dissolving the village-owned department, as-is, and create an independent district run by an elected team of fire commissioners.
“The main reason is to secure the future of the fire department. With the way government operates now, we just feel village government isn’t going to be around forever,” said East Syracuse firefighter and past chief Michael Cramer. “If someday the village were to dissolve, the fire department would be left in limbo.”
The department voted 36-3 to look into the options available to the department. Their main focus, an independent district, would require the village to abolish the department and the town of DeWitt to contract with the newly-created district for fire protection services.
The fire department says preliminary numbers could show savings of $60.47 for a $75,000 home, or $80.63 on a $100,000 home if the department dissolved into an independent district.
“The fire department supplies a product. We offer the product to East Syracuse, then the village sells the product to DeWitt. Fire protection, being the product,” Cramer said. “All we’re doing is cutting out the middle man, which eliminates cost.”
But Mayor Danny Liedka says the fire department hasn’t completed necessary studies to determine the actual savings.
“Some of the numbers they turned over to the town left out a few variables,” Liedka said. “We’ll go out and get that information on our own and see if there’s a savings.”
Liedka says he’s been looking into some of the figures the fire department has provided in a preliminary budget. Some of those numbers, like insurance costs, show huge savings to the department — but Liedka is questioning the validity of those numbers. “I don’t take this at face value,” Liedka said. “I have to protect the taxpayer and I have to vet the numbers.”
He’s been working to secure quotes for the insurances, as well, and can’t find rates comparable to those provided by the fire department.
“All we did was send it out to bid and we have to take people’s written quotes,” Cramer said. “We have a written quote from a business that is significantly lower.”
The village is also questioning missing costs for rent or the sale of the department’s current station, which is village-owned. The department’s apparatus is also village-owned, including the three chief cars and 10 fire-fighting trucks and rescue vehicles.
Liedka has commissioned County Comptroller Robert Antonacci’s office for help in determining the savings to village taxpayers should the department be abolished. Those numbers should be ready soon, he said.
“Of course we want to save people money, and we’ve offered to do it together,” Liedka said. “I’m disappointed because several times, in public meetings, we offered to help.”
The department has not formally presented the idea of dissolving the department to the town. At a Jan. 9 DeWitt Town Board meeting, the topic of the East Syracuse fire contract was on the agenda. That discussion spurred an informal presentation on the department’s plans, Cramer said.
The fire department’s decision to go to the town, however, isn’t sitting well with Liedka.
“Right out of the gate, it creates bad blood that doesn’t need to exist,” he said.
Cramer says he and the department have been open in speaking with the village.
“There is no bad blood between the fire department and the village,” he said. “This is just the fire company securing the future, we want to make sure we still have a fire company down the road. We don’t have anything against the village. The only reason we spoke with the town is because the town brought it up at a public meeting. It was just the town bringing it up on a public agenda at their own meeting. Other than that, we haven’t really had many conversations with the town at all.”
In order for the fire department to proceed into an independent district, which would cover the footprint of East Syracuse and the northern section of DeWitt, including Carrier Circle and part of Hancock Airport, the village trustees would have to vote to abolish the department. Cramer says the department does not have plans, as of now, should the village refuse to do so.
“If there are savings to be had, let’s work together and try to find them — together,” Liedka said.