Skip to main content

East Pembroke Fire Department

No easy task, East Pembroke Fire officials give 44-cent tax rate increase on eve of vote

By Joanne Beck

There has been some confusion about the East Pembroke Fire Department’s upcoming vote for a plan to help retain volunteers, and after attempting to confirm the related tax rate increase, it’s not difficult to understand why.

The vote is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the fire hall, 8655 Barrett Drive, Batavia.

Late Monday, officials said the confirmed rate per thousand of property tax increase is 44 cents.

District Chairman James Gayton said that the fire department was required to only post the resolution, which does not include information about the tax rate. It states details related to the service award program for volunteer firefighters and is recapped in full below. 

However, property owners have questioned — via online posts and by reaching out to The Batavian — how approval of this resolution will affect their property taxes. Apparently, one such citizen distributed a letter citing an inflated and incorrect tax rate increase, and information was mailed to residents encouraging folks to vote no -- with the appearance of being signed by Gayton, though he had nothing to do with the mailer.

There was a public information session about the resolution, but there was nothing online available from that session pertaining to the tax rate, attorney Bradley Pinsky said. The district wasn’t required to do so, and therefore only posted the resolution itself, he said. 

The Batavian attempted to obtain the tax rate increase and received conflicting information. Gayton explained that other factors go into the final tax numbers and therefore seemed reluctant to provide a final tax rate of cents per $1,000 assessed value increase. 

He referred The Batavian to the fire district’s attorney, Bradley Pinsky of Syracuse, whose calculations first came up with a 96-cent per $1,000 assessed value increase. So for a home assessed at $100,000, that would mean an increase of $96.25 a year for the first five years of this approved resolution. It is to decrease significantly after those first five years, Gayton said. 

Gayton also does not believe the increase will be that high, as he initially estimated it to be 80 cents and then came in with a 50-cent per $1,000 figure when pressed for a definite number this past weekend. 

“That number is based on 100 percent people (qualifying for retirement benefits), which won’t happen,” he said Monday. 

After further calculations later Monday evening, since Pinsky apparently didn't realize that all of the three district towns of Batavia, Alabama and Pembroke should have been included, he came up with a 44-cent "confirmed max" increase per $1,000 assessed value. That would mean an increase of $44 on a home assessed at $100,000.

This number was tabulated as of about 8 p.m. Monday, on the eve of the vote. The Batavian isn't sure why the information wasn't readily available since an information session had already happened, and district residents had been encouraged to ask questions for several days prior.

An online post related to the vote claimed that the information was fully provided in a legal notice. Below is the legal notice sent to The Batavian:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that pursuant to a resolution of the Board of Fire Commissioners, a special election of the qualified voters of the East Pembroke Fire District in the towns of Pembroke, Batavia and Alabama, County of Genesee, State of New York, will be held on the 29th day of August, 2023 between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., held at 8655 Barrett Drive, Batavia NY 14020 to vote on whether to approve the following resolution adopted by at least sixty percent of the Board of Fire Commissioners:


Whether to adopt a defined benefit service award plan within the East Pembroke Fire District for the volunteer firefighters of the fire company of the East Pembroke Fire District, being the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., pursuant to General Municipal Law Sections 216 and 219, with an estimated annual cost of the program being $118,514.00 for the first five (5) years, with the annual cost thereafter being $27,706, and an estimated annual administration fee of $3,648 dollars ($3,000 plus $18/participant).

The annual amount of the contribution made on behalf of each participant credited with a year of fire service shall be twenty ($20.00) dollars per month of service for a maximum monthly entitlement benefit of four hundred ($400.00) dollars. 

Benefits shall be accruable, per year of active service limited to twenty (20) years. Participants will vest a non-forfeitable right to a service award after five (5) years of service. Each qualified participant shall receive credit for up to five (5) qualified years of active firefighting service prior to the establishment of the Service Award Program, known as a buyback service credit and the cost of this buy back shall be amortized over a five (5) year period, the cost stated above. 

The entitlement age shall be sixty-five (65). The program will be administered by the East Pembroke Fire District and will take effect on the first day of January, 2024.

All persons registered to vote in the district and residing in the district for at least thirty days prior to the day of the vote may vote in such special election.

This is the resolution and does not say anything about the actual tax rate impact to property owners. A previous story about the retirement benefits of this resolution ran in The Batavian earlier this month.

Gun Raffle to benefit the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department

By Billie Owens

The East Pembroke Fire Department will host a Gun Raffle to raise money for the volunteer company from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. Doors open at 5 o'clock. Only 750 raffle tickets will be sold; donation per ticket is $20.

One ticket admission, and that ticket will be reentered for the #10 Drawing (Winchester Model 70-270).

Food and refreshments will be sold.

Guns purchased from Hunter's Landing. All guns will be picked up at the store location. You must pass a background check.

Event Date and Time

East Pembroke installs fire officers for 2015

By Howard B. Owens

Chief Don Newton, East Pembroke Fire Department, received the Service Award for 2014, and Fire Training Officer James Gayton was named Firefighter of the Year Saturday night during the department's annual installation dinner.

Counting fire calls, accidents and EMS calls, East Pembroke went on 350 calls in 2014, up from the recent average year of about 300 calls.

The 2015 firematic officers as elected by members are: Newton, chief; Stephen Smelski, 1st assistant chief; Williams Torres Jr., 2nd assistant chief; Donald Newton Sr., firematic captain; Jose Santini, firematic lieutenant; Lori Ann Santini, EMS captain; Robert Yungfleisch, EMS lieutenant; Ray Schramm, fire police captain; Chris Bennett, fire police lieutenant; Gayton, training officer; Smelski, safety officer.

Candles were lit after the dinner in a memorial service to honor fallen first responders and members of the military.

Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger administered the oath of office for department and district officers.

East Pembroke fire officials hope to persuade residents new fire hall is desperately needed

By Howard B. Owens

The fire hall in East Pembroke has served its department well for more than 80 years. Now, Fire District officials hope the department's next fire hall will serve the community well for another 80 to 100 years.

If there is a new fire hall.

Voters will need to approve the expenditure and tax increase to make it possible, and Fire District Commissioner Bill Lawrence says it's absolutely essential to approve the expenditure if East Pembroke Fire is going to continue to provide essential service to the 100 square miles and 5,500 residents over its coverage area.

The proposed fire hall would sit on land purchased by the district more than a decade ago that is a little bit east of the current location. The building would be 11,128 square feet and cost $3 million.

It would contain not only more room for existing fire trucks, but rooms for hose drying, decontamination and air packs.

"It's by no means a castle," Lawrence said. "It's just a basic building. It's got what we need and stuff that we should have had."

For a district that has traditionally held the line on tax increases, the proposal might make some property owners gulp. The tax assessment would go up from the current $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.98.

But that price factors in future inflation, new trucks, ongoing maintenance and other expenses.

"There won't be another tax rate increase for 20 years," Lawrence said.

The district, Lawrence said, has always tried to keep taxes down, even while always paying cash for new trucks and keeping its annual budget at $150,000 or less.

Now the district faces a situation where the fire hall must be replaced, but there's not enough money in the bank to cover all of the costs.

"Our feeling was to let the people keep their money," Lawrence said. "We've been asked, 'why didn't you increase the tax rate right along?' But we felt it was better to let people keep their money."

There will be a public meeting June 18 at St. Mary's to discuss the new fire hall and make the case that the expenditure is critically necessary.

A visit to the fire hall's basement might be the district's most convincing evidence.

The former rec hall for the department sits under three bays that were built in the 1970s. The floor was designed to support only 14,000 pounds. The current trucks occupying those three bays weigh more than 45,000 pounds.

On the advice of an engineer, the rec hall was gutted and support beams were constructed.

The lowest available price from a contractor for the support construction was $30,000. The department was able to reduce the sum with its volunteers and material donated by Ed Arnold Scrap, Jay E. Potter Lumber and Fastenal (top photo).

The 1930s era portion of the structure was designed to support on 8,000 pounds and it currently contains a 12,000-pound rescue truck.

The structural problems with the building came to light after a car struck the fire hall Nov. 15, 2012. Before the accident, replacing the fire hall was on the district's long-term to-do list, but didn't become a matter of urgency until the accident brought code inspectors and engineers to the property who found the structure was insufficient for its current use.

Firefighting has changed a lot since the 1930s. Trucks have gotten bigger and the state has implemented ever more stringent and costly regulations. 

For example, new turnout gear for interior firefighters must be purchased every 10 years, at a cost of $3,500. New air packs must be purchased every 15 years and cost $6,500 each. The state requires all tires on fire trucks be replaced every 10 years, whether the tires are worn or not.

Recently, more and more residents have been putting steel roofs on their homes and barns. That presents a new firefighting challenge because the roofs are harder to access -- especially in frosty or wet whether -- to ventilate a fire (a key firefighting strategy).  

The increase in steel roofs means the district needs to buy a new ladder truck at a cost of $675,000.

"Somebody might ask, why are you going to get ladder truck and it's for that reason," Lawrence said. "We can't take care of these houses and some the barns that are getting these roofs on them. We're being pushed into a lot of stuff where we don't have control. It's depressing because you're losing control and still they're coming out with more regulations."

Lawrence also feels like the companies that supply fire departments with apparatus have the departments in a monopolistic hammerlock, giving them the ability to inflate prices.

Rescue 57 cost $270,000, a price Lawrence said is outrageous.

"It's like a wedding," Lawrence said. "If you're going to go anywhere for a wedding, and they know it's a wedding cake, they know it's a wedding dress, they know it's anything else, it doubles the price. They know it's related to fire, they kick the price up. There's no reason that truck should have cost nearly $300,000. No reason at all."

The current fire hall is owned by the East Pembroke Fire Department and Lawrence said district officials feel it would be better for the district to own the fire hall. Building a new one will give the district the chance to correct that historic anomaly.  

The fire department would then sell the current hall -- which, if you need to know -- is not the same parcel as the mud race pits, so the annual mud races would be unaffected by the sale.  

The department goes out on nearly 300 calls a year and currently has 31 volunteer firefighters. The district projects growth in the area that will mean 400 calls annually by 2034 and the department will need 55 volunteers to operate.

There simply isn't room in the current building to upgrade it enough to accomodate that growth. But even just upgrading the electrical, the structural, the mechanical and making it handicapped accessible (which would be required under federal law) would cost nearly $1 million.

Voters in the Town of Barre recently turned down a new fire hall proposal that was about half the price East Pembroke is seeking, but Lawrence said that vote doesn't concern him much.

"It doesn't make us nervous because we know what we have to have to serve the residents of the district," Lawrence said.

This fire truck arrived at EPFD new in 1934. It's the kind of truck the 1930s era fire hall was built to hold; not the massive engines of today. This truck is still technically operational, but is used for display and parades.

The crumbling cement of the floor of the firehouse as seen from the basement.

File photo from the 2012 accident that made the defects with the current fire hall much more obvious.

Authentically Local