May 15, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
Instead of consolidation, Manlius fire departments are looking at cooperation.
The four fire chiefs in the town — Kirkville, Minoa, Manlius and Fayetteville — are working together to consolidate costs in the town.
An implementation advisory committee has been meeting since the spring when a fire study, commissioned by the town, was completed. That study by Ron Graner, of Georgia, strongly recommended the formation of a joint fire district to improve efficiency and save taxpayer money.
Supervisor Ed Theobald said the committee has not come to any conclusions, but is currently studying the financials of two kinds of consolidation — operational and jurisdictional.
The first option, he said, would be an operational joint district. The three departments, Manlius, Fayetteville and Minoa, and the Kirkville Fire District would partner for purchasing power.
The second option the Implementation Advisory Committee is considering is a jurisdictional consolidation. All fire companies in Manlius would dissolve and create one large district covering all of Manlius and parts of the town of Pompey, already covered by the Manlius Fire Department.
The results of that Implementation Advisory Committee’s report is expected later this week, Theobald said.
Town taxpayers fund $2,990,067 of the three village’s budgets, a cost split between the villages and other towns, such as Pompey and Sullivan, that the districts protect.
In an effort to save money, the town of Manlius had commissioned a study by Ron Graner, of Georgia, to figure out logistics of a potential consolidation of fire districts. Graner’s study recommended the formation of a joint fire district to improve efficiency and save taxpayer’s money. That decision was made last year, and since then, an implementation advisory committee has been working to study the options for the departments.
Meetings between the chiefs, the advisory committee, and the executive committee — which consists of the village’s three mayors — have been left behind closed doors. Manlius Supervisor Ed Theobald says the advisory committee should be presenting their final report to the executive committee later this week.
But before that happens, the chiefs have been working together to look at ways to better coexist in the town.
“We’re working together to make it better, to make it more efficient,” said Manlius Fire Chief Paul Whorrall. “It’s more of working together as a group that we weren’t necessarily doing before.”
Whorrall says the implementation committee told the chiefs that consolidation may not be the best direction, though their final report has yet to be made to the town.
“It’s more of a cooperation-type thing,” he said. “That’s the direction they were looking at, and they wanted the chief’s assistance in moving forward with this.”
So in about a half-dozen meetings in the last couple months, Whorrall, Fayetteville Chief Paul Hildreth, Minao Chief Matt McGarrity and Kirkville Chief Ed Visser have been meeting to decide on four key components of the fire department that could use some cooperation.
“It’s just advancing what we’ve been doing over the years, so now we’re just trying to push things together,” said McGarrity.
A big component could be town-wide training. Instead of paying fees to go elsewhere, or to attend each other’s courses, they would be able to do training among the four departments.
The four town departments could use the resources within their departments to provide training to all members, making for a more united training program between the departments, and while also offering state classes the departments need.
The chiefs are also analyzing their expenditures through the departments, looking at what equipment each department has and how that could play into other department’s purchases.
“Manlius doesn’t need four ladder trucks,” Whorrall said. “So maybe somebody buys a ladder truck and another buys a tanker.”
The departments each have capital plans laid out for the next five to 20 years, which will help each chief look at what the town needs.
Assessing the mechanic for the fire apparatus’ could also be helpful, Hildreth said at a Fayetteville village board meeting. Hiring one mechanic to work on all four department’s equipment could help for better service on the vehicles, but also a constant source of repairs.
“There is enough work in the town,” McGarrity said. “Plus they would know the vehicles, and do the work on the vehicles consistently.”
The chief’s initiative is cooperation among themselves, playing into the advisory committee’s final recommendation, which is expected to be made this week.
“We work together really well now, we will have to see where it goes with the town,” McGarrity said.
Theobald declined to comment on the topic, citing the unconfirmed decision on part of the implementation advisory committee.
This year’s costs are down, with all three village department showing a decrease in operating costs over last year. The Kirkville Fire District is contracted at $169,116 for 2012.
“It’s beyond apparent all villages worked diligently this year to keep costs down,” said Councilor Nicholas Marzola.
The biggest change in the budgets will be in the village of Fayetteville, where the 2009 referendum to approve the new firehouse increased taxes in 2012 by 58 percent. A decrease of $78,016 in the yearly budget will help town taxpayers next year, though taxes in the Fayetteville Fire Protection District, which includes the entire village and part of the town of Manlius, will still be 32 percent higher than in 2010. The tax rate for that protection district will be $2.30 per thousand.
“I wish residents didn’t have to pay $2.30 per thousand, but on average, it’s less than a cup of coffee a day to make sure their home is protected,” Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson said. Olson, who is also a captain in the fire department, urged town board members to consider the call volume and quality of service from the fire department and ambulance corps.
“I know you guys all look at the numbers but look at the services provided,” he said.
Costs in both Minoa and Manlius are also down.
In Minoa, a $17,774 reduction on their total $1.9 million budget will help taxpayers a little. The tax rate will decrease less than 2 percent, slipping from $1.57 to $1.55 per thousand.
“We didn’t go status quo, we’re really being as aggressive as we can,” said Manlius Mayor Mark-Paul Serafin.
And in Minoa, the village department decreased their budget by about $36,000. Costs are expected to decrease in the village department after last fall’s switch in management of ambulance providers. Minoa Ambulance is now managed by Western Area Volunteer Emergency Services, the ambulance service in the town of Camillus. Those contract costs increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars, but personnel costs to the village have decreased equally. The tax rate will decrease about 5 percent, taking the tax rate from $1.72 to $1.63. That’s the lowest tax rate in the village in at least four years.
Kirkville is contracted by the town to provide fire service to that fire protection district. The annual cost is $169,116 for the all volunteer department. In total, taxpayers of the villages and town pay about $4.6 million in fire and emergency medical services costs.