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October 31, 2013 - 8:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire department, fire safety.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Department is joining nearly 6,000 fire departments nationwide in promoting the annual Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries campaign on Sunday, Nov. 3.

Fire Prevention Officer Lieutenant Jeff Whitcombe encourages all residents to adopt the simple, life-saving habit of changing smoke alarm batteries when they change their clocks back from daylight savings time to standard time.

“It’s an easy, inexpensive and proven way to protect your family and your home,” Lt. Whitcombe said.

Since 1987, the International Association of Fire Chiefs has joined forces with Energizer batteries to spread the message that non-working smoke alarms are responsible for needless death and injuries. Now 25 years later, thanks to the change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries campaign, home fire deaths continue to decline.

Recent surveys conducted for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Consumer Products Safety Commission found that 96 percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm, but only 75 percent have at least one working smoke alarm. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing or dead batteries or disconnected wires. The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most families are sleeping. A working smoke alarm can provide the critical extra seconds needed to get people out safely.

According to the NFPA, the maximum life cycle of a smoke alarm is 10 years from the date of manufacture, not the date of installation. Beginning in 2002, all smoke detectors must have a manufacture date marked on the outside of the smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm does not have a manufacture date, then it is older than 10 years and must be replaced. The City of Batavia Fire Department recommends purchasing smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries. All smoke alarms should be tested monthly.

The City of Batavia Fire Department has a free smoke alarm and battery installation program. According to Lt. Whitcombe “We have installed hundreds of smoke alarms and batteries over the past 20 years and will continue to do so until everyone who needs them has them.”

For information about the free smoke alarm and battery installation program, City of Batavia residents should contact the City of Batavia Fire Department at (585) 345-6375.

October 29, 2013 - 9:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department, John Kennedy School.

Andrew Beal, a student at John Kennedy, got a ride to school this morning in a City of Batavia fire truck as his prize for winning the department's recent fire safety poster contest.

Firefighter Dave Adams, Andrew's father Jerome, and Chief Jim Maxwell with Andrew.

Andrew and his father Jerome waiting for Engine 11 to arrive.

April 10, 2012 - 9:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department.

It will be red, bright, shiny and brand new and it will belong to the City of Batavia.

In a unanimous vote Monday night, the city council approved the purchase of a fire truck built from the ground up by Rosenbauer, a 140-year-old fire apparatus manufacturer based in South Dakota.

The total cost of $342,369 was the lowest of the bids to meet all of the requirements of the fire department, Chief Jim Maxwell told the council.

City Manager Jason Molino noted it's still below the $370,000 built up in reserve over the past three years for a new truck.

The truck, which may carry the designation Engine 11, will replace Engine 14, which was retired due to escalating repair costs to keep it up to standards.

Locally, the Town of Batavia operates a Rosenbauer engine and Rochester recently bought seven engines from the company.

When questioned by Councilman Jim Russell, Maxwell confirmed that the fire department visited with some of the departments running Rosenbauer equipment, as well has other engines, and didn't come across any complaints.

The department expects delivery of the new truck in 120 days.

On the Web: Build your own fire truck on Rosenbauer's site.

June 6, 2010 - 4:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, charity, fire department.

City firefighters raised $5,601 in support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association this year as part of its annual "Fill the Boot" campaign.

It's the most ever donated in a single MDA boot drive, according to Greg Ireland, president of IAFF Local 896.

On Friday, off duty firefighters, stood at the intersections of Main and Court and Ellicott and Court with firefighter boots and asked passersby to drop in donations.

"It was an amazing day," Ireland said.

June 4, 2010 - 12:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, charity, fire department.

filltheboot.jpg

Firefighters Mike Morris and Jeff Whitcombe were on Main Street at Court Street this morning collecting donations from drivers passing by as part of the City of Batavia Fire Department Local 896's annual campaign. The funds benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Firefighters will be at Main and Court and Ellicott and Court until 5 p.m.

June 2, 2010 - 10:40am
posted by Justine Bonarigo in fire department, Keller, Miller.

At the age of 18, Tracy Miller and James Keller were just two teens riding their bikes on an evening in Bergen in 1958.

They happened to hear there was a fire on Maple Street, so they rode by the scene with great interest. To their surprise, the fire chief at the time yelled to the boys to get up on the fire truck and help out.

bergen_miller.jpgHolding the water hose and instantly becoming a part of the crew at the scene was the moment when both men fell in love with the idea of being a firefighter. Looking back on that fond memory, Miller explained how “it was so exciting” for them to be able to offer help to such a critical service.

Both lifelong residents of the Bergen community, and lifelong friends, were happy to share their stories with me.

This spring, the Town of Bergen commended Miller and Keller for their 50 years of service. It was an honor to get to meet them and their wives, Loretta and Wilda, respectively.

Miller shared with me that at the age of 18 when he signed up to be a Bergen firefighter, his name was placed on a waiting list.

“At the time, volunteering for the community was the thing to do," Miller added.

It was in July of 1959 when Tracy Miller officially joined the fire department. Keller was appointed as a member in 1958, just after his father was recognized for 65 years of service to the fire department.

"It has been an ongoing generation sort of thing for the Keller family to be a part of the fire department," he said.

Both men are still active and greatly involved with the fire department and now serve as fire policemen. Their exceptional contributions and volunteerism continue to inspire junior fire members, as well as Bergen and its youth.

bergen_keller.jpgFor Miller, the most gratifying reward for being a part of the FD for so many years, he told me, has been “simply being able to help my neighbors in their time of need.” Keller also agreed that being able to help others has definitely been the most satisfying result of this uncompensated labor of love.

As if dedicating one’s life as a volunteer firefighter isn't enough public service, these guys do a lot more and Bergen is the better for it.

Miller served on the Town Board of Bergen for 16 years. He is the vice president of the Historical Society, a Mason, and a deacon at The First Presbyterian Church. He also volunteers at the Senior Center in Batavia to help people with their taxes, and he provides elderly people he's met through the FD with transportation when needed.

Bergen Town Supervisor Don Cunningham said “what makes Tracy’s 50 years of service even more extraordinarily unique is that he still remains active. Whether arriving at the hall to pilot the ambulance, direct traffic at a fire scene, or just be available to lend a hand where needed."

Currently, Miller is helping to the fire department plan its 150th year celebration for 2011.

Keller is active in the Cemetery Association at Mt. Rest as is Miller.

Keller was a member of the EMT rescue squad for 10 years. And he currently participates as an Institutional Representative for Boy Scouts, which is sponsored by United Methodist Church, where he has been a member for 20 years. Keller is also a member of the V.F.W.

Not only have both men been recognized for their 50 years, and counting, of outstanding work as a volunteer for the Bergen Fire Department, they both continue to gain satisfaction from their incredible volunteering roles in the community by participating in various village functions.

Tracy Miller is pictured on top. Above is James Keller.

June 2, 2010 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, charity, fire department.

City of Batavia firefighters are asking local residents to once again "fill the boot."

The annual fundraising drive benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

At 9 a.m. Friday, residents are encouraged to drive through the intersection of Court Street and Ellicott Street or Court and Main and drop donations into a firefighter's boot.

This is the 16th year City of Batavia Fire Department Local 896 has sponsored a local "fill the boot" drive.

Last year, the community donated $4,500 to the effort.

"Everyone at the firehouse is looking forward to this Friday," said Union President Greg Ireland.  "The guys really appreciate the generosity of those that can give, whether it be their spare change, a dollar or even more."

Donations help cover everything from wheelchairs to braces, physical therapy sessions to kids summer camps.

Photo: File photo from last year.

May 25, 2010 - 3:40pm
posted by Justine Bonarigo in fire department, Keller, Miller.

At the age of 18, Tracy Miller and James Keller were just two teens riding their bikes on an evening in Bergen around the year 1958.

They happened to hear there was a fire on Maple St., so they rode by the scene with great interest. To their suprirse, the fire chief at the time yelled down to the boys to get up on the fire truck and help.

Holding the water hose, and instantly becoming a part of the crew at the scene was the moment where both men fell in love with the idea of being a firefighter. Looking back on that fond memory, Miller explained how "it was so exciting" to be able to offer help at such a time, to such a critical service.

Both lifelong residents of the Bergen community, and lifelong friends, were happy to share their stories of dedication and service with me.

The town of Bergen recently commended Miller and Keller for their 50 years of service in the Fire Department in March of 2010. It was an honor to get to meet with both Tracy, his wife Loretta Miller, and James and Wilda Keller.

Miller shared with me that at the age of 18, when he signed up to be a fire fighter in Bergen, his name was placed on a waiting list. "At the time, volunteering for the community was the thing to do", Miller added.

It was in July of 1959 when Miller and Keller joined the Fire Department. Keller was appointed as a member just after his father had been a part of the FD for a total of 65 years. Keller added, "it has been an ongoing generation sort-of-thing for the Keller family to be a part of the Fire Department."

Both miller and Keller are still active and greatly involved with the FD as they now participate as Fire Policemen. Their exceptional acts of volunteering continue to shine light on other junior fire members, as well as the community of Bergen and its youth.

For Miller, the most gratifying reward from being a part of the FD for so many years, he shared, has been "simply being able to help my neighbors in their time of need." Keller also agreed that being able to help others has definitely been the most satisfying reward from this uncompensated labor of love.

As if dedicating one's life as a volunteer fire fighter doesn't receive a loud enough applause, both individual's contributions to the community exceed past their role in the FD.

Tracy Miller also served on the Town Board of Bergen for 16 years. He is the Vice President of the Historical Society, a member of the Masons, and a Deacon at The First Presbyterian Church in Bergen. He also volunteers his time at the Senior Center in Batavia, and he generously provides elderly with transportation when needed.

Don Cunninghman, Supervisor of the Town of Bergen, stated that Tracy's will to help the community is "extraordinarily unique", whether it be "arriving at the hall to pilot the ambulance, direct traffic at a fire scene, or just be a available to lend a hand where needed", Tracy is there to volunteer.

(Photo: Tracy Miller)

Miller currently dedicates his time to the FD in planning for their 150th year celebration in the upcoming, 2011 year.

Both Miller and Keller actively participate in the Cemetery Association at Mt. Rest where they are currently getting ready for Memorial Day, by placing flags on all of the firefighter's graves.

Keller (pictured below) was a member of the EMT rescue squad for ten years. He is also a present participant as an Institutional Representative for Boy Scouts, which is sponsored by United Methodist Church. He has been a member for 20 years. Keller is also a member of the V.F.W.

Not only have both men been recognized for their 50 years, and counting, of outstanding work as volunteers for the Bergen Fire Department, they both continue to gain satisfication from their incredible contributions to the community by participating in various village functions.  

May 21, 2010 - 11:22pm

Tonight I attended the COVA "Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance" Open House at their headquarters in Albion NY.  Over 150 people were on hand during this occational rainy event to give thanks to all EMT's, Mercy flight, Volunteers, etc. Much of the information is on the website at :www.covaems.com/

I interviewed EMT Patrick Lamka and asked the question, What is COVA?

Here is a quick video of Mercyflight taking off:

Many photos during this event:

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Lots of people on hand even though it poured at times but a great turnout !

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Yummy popcorn and activities for kids.

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Some staff members ...

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One of the ambulances from the fleet.

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The newest ambulance to the fleet, not yet lettered.  Just arrived.

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Patrick Lamka and Tricia Warren

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posing near the Mercyflight helicopter ...

8.JPG

The 2010 COVA staff

They thanked everyone who came to support, donate and attend tonight's open house.  Providng services to help others in emergency needs.

April 29, 2010 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department.

Captain Craig Williams will serve as City of Batavia fire chief for the next four to six weeks, City Manager Jason Molino announced late this afternoon.

captain_craig_williams.jpgWilliams replaces Chief Ralph Hyde, who has been acting chief since last fall, when the previous chief had to step down because of a conflict over his retirement benefits and ability to draw a city salary.

Hyde was on his second tour of duty as the city's chief, and decided it was time to go back into retirement.

Molino said the search for a new, permanent chief is progressing, but didn't want to discuss details of the search, including the number of candidates who have applied for the job.

At the city's fire hall this afternoon, firefighters were in a good mood and Williams said he stepped into the role because it seemed like the right thing to do.

"With Chief Hyde leaving tomorrow and the city needing an interim chief for the next month, month-and-a-half, I decided to step in and help the city out," Williams said.

Williams said he will handle the chief's typical day-to-day duties until a new chief is appointed.

Meanwhile, the city's other vacant position of note, the plumbing inspector, has been filled with an interim appointment. Replacing the retiring Barb Toal is her cousin, Ron Toal of Elba.

Plumbing inspectors in New York's cities must pass a local plumbing board test and cannot work as a plumber in the city once appointed.

The city has three candidates for a permanent position, Molino said. They have taken the test and Molino said he believes the tests will be graded next month.

The plumbing board has three tests to grade, Molino said.  He expects they will be graded next month.

April 14, 2010 - 3:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department, firefighters.

cityfiretrain02.jpg

On Jan. 23, 2005, six New York City firefighters became trapped on the fourth floor of a burning building. All six jumped from windows, and two firefighters died after the 50-foot fall.

Soon after, FDNY began testing procedures and systems to allow firefighters to more safely exit a building if fire has blocked all doorway exits.

After a couple of years of research, FDNY came up with specification for a rappel system that is lightweight so interior firefighters can carry it as part of their regular gear. 

A Utah-based company then developed a device based on those specifications.

Icityfiretrain03.jpgt's now state law that all interior firefighters be equipped with this system, or one like it, and the City of Batavia has become one of the first fire departments in the state, outside of New York City, to purchase and train all of its firefighters on the system, called EXO.

"New York has been using it three or four years, so it's a proven system," said Capt. Craig Williams.

The cost to outfit 36 firefighters and have local crew members trained to use it and train other firefighters was $25,000.

The training isn't as easy as it looks, the firefighters say. They are required to climb out of a simulated second-story window nine times -- three times with no other gear, three times with their breathing apparatus and three times with their face shields blacked out so they can't see -- just as it would likely be in a real fire.

The training is obviously physically demanding. Today, firefighters who completed the procedure were clearly winded once they were on the ground and had their masks off.

Of the local volunteer fire departments, Williams said only Bergen is making the purchase and beginning the training at this time.

cityfiretraining01.jpg

Photos: Top, Capt. Jeff Day comes out of a simulated upper-story window at the city's fire headquarters. Inset is Day right after pulling off his mask after reaching the ground. Bottom, is firefighter Dave Adams.

December 15, 2009 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire department, pembroke.

pembrokefire_newtruck.jpg

It's red, shiny and has all the bells and whistles. No, it's not Santa's sled -- it's the new fire truck in the Pembroke Fire District.

The truck arrived at the fire station Dec. 8 and Bruce Ross sent over the picture above along with some information about the tanker.

The total cost: $285,000. But, as Ross said, "The payoff for having access to this life saving truck: absolutely priceless to both the firefighters and community."

The 2009 Peterbuilt has a 3,100 gallon tank capacity along with 60 gallons of on-board in-tank foam.

"The truck has all of the latest state-of-the-art LED emergency lighting, including a large directional arrow on the rear of the truck for use on the roadway, especially helpful on Thruway accident scenes, and a Federal Q2B siren to ensure a clear path for minimum response times to an emergency," Ross said.

The truck's equipment includes six SCBA air packs  for use on interior firefighting efforts, eight extra air bottles, 48 feet in ground ladders, various hand tools used both in interior and exterior firefighting work, hard-suction hose in order to gain access to water out of a standing water source such as a pond, and a 4,000-gallon portable pond used in remote areas.

It replaces a 1978 International Tanker that held a mere 1,800 gallons of water. Ross said the old tanker carried less equipment and was plagued by an increasing number of mechanical issues.

Crews will undergo pump and driver training and the truck is expected to be put in service in January.

December 9, 2009 - 12:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, Announcements, fire department.

fd10k.gifThe City of Batavia Fire Department, along with Liberty Mutual Insurance, wants you to be fire smart. Liberty Mutual is giving away $10,000 grants to fire departments that display a commitment to fire safety. A total of 10 grants will be awarded.

By simply going to BeFireSmart.com and completing a 10-question fire safety quiz, you will credit our fire department and increase our chances of receiving one of the grants to be used for fire prevention in our community. The site has a section for children as well and gives parents a fun way to teach fire safety to the whole family.

The results will be announced later this month so complete the quiz today, credit the City of Batavia Fire Department, be fire smart, and help us help you.

December 1, 2009 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire department, byron, south byron.

southbyron_newtruck.jpg

The South Byron Volunteer Fire Department has a new tanker that it hopes to have in service by January.

To meet that deadline, there will be intensive driver and operator training, according to Scott Blossom, who supplied the picture and information.

Tanker 87 was received by the department on Sunday. It was built by Crimson Fire, Inc. in Brandon, South Dakota. It's a 2009 Kenworth T370 Chassis with a five-man commercial cab.

It can pump 1,250 gallons per minute and has a 2,750-gallon water tank with a remote controlled tail pump. It will have 1,000 feet of 4-inch supply hose, one 3/4-inch attack hand line and two 1/2-inch heavy attack lines. 

The truck is capable of being a front-line engine.

It replaces a 1984 Ford tanker with a 500-gallon per-minute pump and 2,000 gallon tank.  That tanker is now up for sale.

UPDATE: I sent a follow up e-mail to Scott and asked about the price of the tanker.  Below is his response, which also clarifies some of the terminology.

Around $265,000

A few boo boos in the posting, I should have been clearer with firefighting terms. It is a tail dump, that is to say where the water dumps out of the truck into a portable tank for engines to suck water out of to fight fires. Used in areas without fire hydrants. The tankers bring water to the scene from ponds, streams, or the nearest hydrant.

The sizes of the attack lines are 1.75 inches and 2.5 inches, as we write them 1 3/4 and 2 1/2.

No biggee, my fault for not being clear.  When your used to talking a certain way, you forget to adjust your terms for those who are not in you line of work.

October 27, 2009 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department, ambulance.

Fire Chief Ralph Hyde will get his light-rescue vehicle, and it's the one he's requested during at least three City Council meetings now.

After a 20-minute discussion at last night's council meeting, the council sort of collectively shrugged and said, "go ahead."

At the end of the discussion, after saying Hyde has "our blessing," Council President Charlie Mallow motioned his hands like a priest, which drew a laugh.

Hyde has sought permission to convert one of the former ambulances -- the newest one, bought within the past year with a state grant -- into a vehicle that could carry additional rescue equipment that doesn't fit on either Ladder 15 or Engine 12.

Council members dithered, asking him to justify the need for the ambulance as a rescue vehicle. Then they asked him to research the option of selling the ambulance and purchasing a new truck, since the ambulance already has 50,000 miles on it.

Hyde's report Monday night put the cost at a new vehicle at between $65,000 and $189,000.

"It would take a $1,000 to convert it, so it’s far cheaper than going out and getting a new vehicle," Hyde said. "And It’s something that we’ve needed for many years."

Previously, Hyde's argument for the ambulance didn't include using some space inside the vehicle to give people displaced from their homes by fire a place to stay warm.

"In the past, we've had people have to wait outside for 30 minutes to an hour, and had to send firefighters in to retrieve shoes and jackets," Hyde said.

The table and benches inside could also serve as a convenient place to interview fire witnesses.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski complained that he thought the purpose of getting rid of the ambulance service was to save money and he expected all six of the city's ambulances to be sold. Mallow pointed out that previously, the council resolution only authorized the sale of the five older ambulances.

A vote was not required on the decision to convert the ambulance into a light-rescue vehicle since the city owns it and it's already assigned to the Fire Department.

October 20, 2009 - 12:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire department.

ladder15_01.jpg

ladder15_02.jpgMembers of the Batavia City Fire Department brought Ladder 15 over to the parking lot of Richmond Library this morning where a group of pre-schoolers were able to meet firemen, get a look at all the truck's equipment  and slide onto the driver's seat.

UPDATE: We've received a couple of e-mails: This event was sponsored by the Genesee Region Insurance Professionals.

September 30, 2009 - 10:18pm
posted by Jeff Allen in Announcements, fire department, church, religion.

The Oakfield Community Bible Church would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Oakfield Fire Department for their generous support in allowing our new and growing congregation to utilize their facilities for our weekly worship services. As with all of our great volunteer fire companies, when we need them, they are there. When God opened a door for us to begin a new work, The Oakfield Fire Department was there.

Our last service at the fire hall will be Sunday, October 4th at 10:00 a.m. We encourage everyone to come and worship with us.  As always, when God closes one door he opens another and on Sunday, October 11th we will begin worshipping in our new home at the Oakfield Rod and Gun Club located at 3199 Maltby Rd. in Oakfield.  In the meantime support your local volunteer fire company because when crisis arises, no one exemplifies a neighbor like volunteer firefighters.


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August 4, 2009 - 3:20pm

car.JPG

The Onion Festival in Elba is this Friday and Saturday, and along with the rides and all things onions comes the chance to win a 2009 Mustang (pictured above) or $18,000, courtesy of the Elba Fire Department.

The winning ticket will be drawn Saturday night at the festival, and the winner will have the choice of the car or money. Tickets are $1.

Art lovers will also have their chance to get lucky, with the Republican Party raffling off an original painting by Bernice Yunker. Tickets are $1 each, or 3 for $2, or 15 for $10. They can be purchased from the Republican booth at the festival.  

 

June 2, 2009 - 11:41am

 

HAWLEY VOTES FOR BILL TO SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS,

MAKE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE

 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) today voted in favor of Assembly Bill 8501, the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.”  This legislation would help save taxpayer dollars by allowing local government to become more effective and efficient, while at the same time standardizing state law regarding the process of government consolidation.

 

“I firmly believe that less government is better government and I have long supported initiatives to consolidate government services, such as during this year’s budget negotiation.  By consolidating services among the three levels of government, we can more effectively and efficiently serve our collective constituency,” said Hawley.

 

The Assemblyman continued, “at first glance there were some fears about this legislation that I shared with local government agencies.  I wanted to make sure that this bill was not just another Albany-imposed mandate.  I have taken the time to carefully review the bill and to vet the language with my colleagues in local government as well as to read a number of letters and e-mails my office has received since this bill was introduced.  We need to take steps to cut government excess in order to truly protect the taxpayers and businesses of our state and I believe after considering this legislation that this bill will help meet that goal.”

 

The bill puts into place a standardized method for government consolidation, shared services or dissolution of government entities, should that be proposed on a local level.  While the Assemblyman originally had some concerns about the bill, upon reviewing the bill language and vetting it through local and state officials, he came to the conclusion that the bill merely clarifies and standardizes the process by which local government entities may consolidate, share services or dissolve, should the voters of the district petition. 

 

The largest among the Assemblyman’s original concerns was that the bill outlines that 10 percent of the electorate must sign a petition calling for a referendum on the issue of consolidation, sharing services or dissolution.  However, this 10 percent is greater than the current 5 percent standard in Town Law and greater than the percentage needed in most cases for a petition to consolidate adjoining villages under current Village Law.  Additionally, the bill provides a safeguard for small villages and government entities with populations of less than 500 residents.  In these cases, the bill calls for 20 percent of the population to sign the petition.

 

Additionally, the Assemblyman shared the concern of some local officials that this measure would put too much power into the hands of county-level officials.  However, current state law already gives counties this power.  Another concern was that should a referendum be called for, taxpayers would be asked to foot the bill for holding a special election.  Yet, the bill directly states that should a referendum be called, it may be held at any time, including on general elections.

 

Finally, the Assemblyman was concerned that should a referendum be called for and passed, it would give local government entities short notice to lay out plans to consolidate, share services or dissolve.  The bill language details the standardized process, which would amount to a minimum of 390 days and, thereafter, it would take up to an additional two years for the plan to be fully implemented.

 

“At the end of the day, this bill puts the power of change into the hands of the people, which, in my opinion, is where it belongs.  This bill does not call for governments to consolidate or dissolve at a local level.  It merely gives a standardized process for localities should they consider this option,” said Hawley.

 

To further ensure that certain government entities, such as fire districts, are protected, Hawley is drafting new legislation that would amend A.8501.  The Assemblyman stated, “I want to make sure that our fire departments are fully protected and that the bill which was passed does not have any unintended negative consequences for our firefighters, especially in terms of volunteer firefighter recruitment.  I will continue working together with the fire districts and volunteer fire departments in the 139th Assembly District and my colleagues in the State Legislature toward this end.”

 

###

 

February 26, 2009 - 2:31pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, city council, fire department, ambulance.

Could the city's claims that the ambulance service was losing money and had to be nixed have been a "deceitful attempt" to get rid of some of the city's firefighters? That's the conclusion following an independent audit of the city's finances that allegedly shows that the ambulance has been in the black every year except one for the past five years. The decision to end the city ambulance service as of September 1 was made at a City Council meeting last month. The vote was unanimous.

Greg Ireland, president of the Firefighters Local 896, met with us today outside the city fire hall to talk about that audit.

"It's plain and simple: the numbers don't lie," he said. "Revenues exceeded expenditures, period."

If you visit the new Batavia ambulance Web site you can get a closer look at those numbers. Ireland had the audit put together by Kevin Decker, president of the Albany-based independent firm, Decker Economics. In his report, summarized in a memo that Ireland gave to us today, Decker shows that in the fiscal year 2003-04, the city ambulance fund "recorded an operating surplus (revenues minus expenses) of $529,766." In 2004-05, the fund posted a surplus of $414,006. In 2005-06, the fund posted a surplus of $570,807.

That's the year that things start to change, according to the report.

"To compensate the General fund for resources expended by fire department personnel directly related to ambulance services, the City provided for a transfer from the Ambulance fund to the General fund (of) $921,609."

This shift of expenses from one fund to another—a typical city budget includes several funds, including: general, fire, sewer and water—is known as an interfund transfer, by which expenses or revenues generated within one fund are used to offset those of another.

So, in the following year, 2006-07, Decker's report explains that the ambulance fund posted a deficit of $454,799. That deficit is explained in these terms on the Web site:

"Since people were beginning to question the inter-fund transfers, the city created a better way to hide their ambulance money.  Instead of just picking a number out of the sky, City Hall decided to remove 35% (approximately $1 million) of Firefighter's wages and benefits from the General Fund and put those expenses against the Ambulance Fund.  So without the "transfer", but adding $1 million of "false" expenses, the Ambulance Fund showed a deficit of $454,799."

The interfund transfers continued in 2007-08, but the ambulance fund still posted a surplus of $286,038, according to the report.

The bottom line is that the ambulance service helps subsidize the cost of the City's fire department. In fact, in FY 2007-08, the City's Ambulance fund generated an operating surplus even with a significant portion of fire department wages and salaries included.

If we assume that the level of staffing for fire suppression personnel cannot be reduced any further, eliminating the ambulance service will require the City to come up with other sources of revenue to finance the payroll costs for City firefighters that are currently being subsidized by the Ambulance Fund. This fact has been recognized, and reported to the City, by both the City's auditors and the State Comptroller's Office.

In conclusion:

Absent a complete lack of understanding on the part of City leaders, it would appear that this move to eliminate the ambulance service is a back door and deceitful attempt to reduce the size of the City's firefighting force.

"We want a new vote taken," said Ireland. "We want to educate the public. Then we want a new vote taken."

In a video interview with Ireland taken at the union's informational picket outside City Hall last week, he said that the city rushed the decision to end ambulance service before anyone had a chance to speak out on it.

Ireland said he is open to negotiations with the city. Of course, that would all take place "behind closed doors."

"I'm more than willing to sit down and talk openly with anyone," he said.

On a side note, our appointment this afternoon was to meet with Ireland at the city fire hall on Evans Street. We had to conduct that meeting outside on the sidewalk. Not a bad situation on a nice day like today. But you may ask why. Well, Ireland apologized and explained that the city manager, Jason Molino, called this morning and told him not to meet with the press inside the fire hall. In fact, Ireland's meeting earlier with Dan Fischer of WBTA and Joanne Beck of the Daily News had to be moved to the WBTA studios, he said.

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