Jan 29, 2013 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
The manner in which fire protection services are provided to many greater Baldwinsville residents may soon change.
For the past few years, the Baldwinsville Volunteer Fire Company and Lysander Fire District have been in discussions to merge, a move that started when Lysander was suffering from a shortage of people and Baldwinsville was exploring the possibility of becoming a fire district, said Tom Perkins, president of the BVFC.
“A meeting was held between Baldwinsville, Lysander and Plainville to explore future plans,” Perkins said, adding that Plainville eventually opted out of the discussion.
Since that time, a study (paid for primarily by the town of Lysander fire departments with a grant from county government and the town of Lysander) was conducted to study fire protection in the area. The results of the study suggested that Baldwinsville, Lysander and Plainville consider forming a joint fire district in the future with Baldwinsville as the lead agency, among other finds.
According to Perkins, there are three types of fire departments, each answering to a municipal entity: village or city fire departments, which answer to a village or city council; fire districts, which answer to an elected board of fire commissioners; and fire protection districts, which answer to a board of directors and ultimately a town board.
“There may be several variations to these, but that is basically how they operate,” Perkins said. “Lysander is a fire district and Baldwinsville is a fire protection district.”
The Smokey Hollow Fire Protection District and the Northern Fire Protection District currently receive services from the BVFC. The Lysander Fire District protects the northwestern corner of Lysander. Should the merger be approved, the BVFC and the Lysander Fire District would become one entity, which would be called the North West Fire District.
“The idea of consolidation is to first improve fire protection within the town and secondly bring the cost of fire protection more evenly distributed,” Perkins said, adding that the first few years of the consolidation will cause an increase in some areas, specifically the Smokey Hollow and Northern fire protection districts, but the costs should level out eventually.
Benefits of the proposed consolidation include sharing of fire-fighting equipment and addressing building needs (possible relocation and retirement of some buildings), both cost saving measures, as well as possible re-assignment of firefighters to provide better coverage.
“I personally feel that consolidation can be a good thing,” Perkins said. “What most people don’t understand is that the cost of fire protection is expensive and there are many unfunded mandates that we have to comply with. With a fire protection district, which is what Baldwinsville is, the final liability rests with town government. The towns do not want to be in the fire protection business or responsible for it. With the recent 2 percent cap on taxes, the fire tax in a fire protection district figures into that cap for a town’s total budget. In a fire district, that would be the responsibility of the district.”
A joint public hearing regarding the merger will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the BVFC Fire Station No. 1, 7911 Crego Road, Van Buren. Residents of both Lysander and Van Buren are encouraged to attend the hearing and voice opinions. In order for the merger to happen, both town boards need to approve the formation of the North West Fire District, which would take effect April 1.
“The fire service is constantly changing,” Perkins said. “I’m sure most of us would rather have our fire departments depicted as some Norman Rockwell painting of years gone by, but the reality is that if we are going to succeed and continue to grow as a viable volunteer organization, we have to change.”
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