The issue of merging the South Byron and Byron fire departments was probably first raised in 1968, according Paul Boylan, the town's attorney.
It's never happened, and after a town budget meeting Wednesday night, it's apparently not going to happen any time soon.
Trustee Scott Wooten has apparently been pushing the issue and had convinced the other trustess to produce a budget this year with a single line item for two fire departments at the same funding as last year, but with a plan to reduce their funding each year by $10,000 a year until there is only one department.
"I don't understand why we pay $1.41 (fire district tax) and the average in Genesee County is .81," Wooten said. "What are we doing differently. Why do we need two of everything?"
Members from both departments were in the audience and argued that the expense of the departments are not as simple it seemed.
All of the current equipment is paid for, and two tankers are needed to comply with insurance adjuster standards, especially with the lack of public water in much of the town, and two engines in case of multiple calls or if one breaks down.
If the departments merge, the fire hall of South Byron would need to be expanded to accommodate Byron's equipment, reducing any cost savings.
Wooten tried to compare what Byron residents pay for fire service with other communities, such as Bethany and Elba.
But there can't be a direct comparison several volunteers said. In Bethany, the town owns the fire hall and in Elba, the village owns the department.
What seemed like a unilateral move by the board to force a merger didn't sit well with the members of the department.
"It's really not pleasant to be bullied like this," said Peter Yasses.
Wooten said he was just trying to do what he thought best for the town residents, and that a fire department tax of $1.41 per thousand seems excessive.
"Unfortunately, you think we're making too much money but somehow we're barely surviving in order to help our neighbors at three o'clock in the morning," said Dan Stevens.
Yasses asked, "who's complaining? I never hear any complaints."
Well, the farmers for one.
"But let them throw a match on one of their piles of paper," interjected Jim McKenzie, "and their whole field catches on fire and we're the ones who have to respond to it."
Chris Hilbert said even the $74,000 allocated now for each department isn't enough to run them. They each must conduct their own fundraisers in order to balance their budgets.
Some members wondered how the town would save any money with one department when current expenditures don't cover the full cost of the service.
There was much talk about hiring consultants to look at consolidation. One firm has already offered a $25,000 estimate for such a study, so the discussion turned to how to pay for it.
An actual study would determine what cost savings, if any, could be achieved; what a consolidated department would look like, and how to go about it in a way that wouldn't increase insurance premiums for town residents.
Wooten wanted to know why a consultant needed to be hired for such a study -- couldn't the fire chiefs do it themselves?. Several said they weren't qualified.
Byron Chief John Durand said he was probably qualified to do the study, but he has a conflict of interest.
"I've been a member of the department for 27 years," Durand said. "This is my seventh year as a chief. Whether I have an actual prejudice or not, everybody is going to think I do because of all that time with the department."
Durand seemed to like the idea of a study, but said if the departments were going to go to all the trouble of an expensive study, they should contact the Bergen and Elba departments and discuss the possibility of a regional department.
Hilbert suggested that each department kick in $7,000 and the town pay $7,000 toward the study, but under the current budget proposal, the town can add only $5,900 in more spending and still remain under the state's property tax cap.
It was at that point that Wooten decided to drop his merger proposal.
"If you're telling me this is the best for Byron, then I'll stay with you," Wooten said. "I'm confident that you're never going to come together. I'm convinced of that. This gentleman over here tells me we must have two of everything, so then we might as well have two departments.
"I just want to see why we're at $1.41 and the average is .81," Wooten added. "If you're telling me that's the way it has to be, then I'm willing to accept that."