Genesee County Emergency Management personnel are keeping employees of the consulting firm that has been hired to evaluate and fix the county’s emergency response capabilities very busy during their first visit to the area.
Four representatives of Municipal Resources Inc., based in Plymouth, N.H., arrived in Batavia on Tuesday and will heading back home on Saturday morning. During their 4 ½-day stay, they are meeting with a variety of stakeholders in the process – from the Genesee County Legislature to Chamber of Commerce officials to fire chiefs to governmental managers to business leaders to the Genesee Association of Municipalities.
“We’re getting in as many meetings as we can to help them conduct their interviews, collect data and solicit feedback primarily of the state of the volunteer fire and EMS service in this county,” Emergency Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger said today. “They wanted to be busy – morning to night, so we’re trying to get to as many stakeholders as we can before moving to the next stage where surveys will be sent out.”
Yaeger said the county will utilize Chamber of Commerce marketing and communication tools to get the surveys out to the businesses community and work with the municipalities to get them out to the public.
As previously reported on The Batavian, Genesee County is paying MRI Inc. up to $101,675 to study of the emergency response situation in the county and to develop a plan to ensure that all areas have enough staffing at all times to meet the public’s needs and expectations.
MRI Inc. officials in town at this time include Brian Duggan and Peter Finley Jr., director of Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services and senior associate for Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services, respectively.
Yaeger, once again, emphasized that the overwhelming majority of feedback is pointing to the lack of consistent and adequate staffing at the volunteer fire companies.
“It’s below where we need it to be, and we need to find a way to increase that activity level and the participation level of every fire department in this county,” he said. “How we get there is why they have been hired.”
Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he is open to “any model they (MRI officials) bring forth that has merit and makes sense.”
“Whatever way they want to utilize the county, I will certainly examine it and look at it – kick the tires – and, if it makes sense, I will certainly put my weight behind it,” Landers said. “Obviously, we are invested because the county is paying for the study and, right there, it should show the community at large that the county is invested in finding a solution for the long-term viability of fire delivery and emergency management services.”
MRI representatives met with Landers and county legislators last night.
“We’re all interested in hearing what workable solutions that can be put forth. No one is interested in having another study that sits on a shelf. We need action items and one of the action items can’t be just leave it alone,” he offered.
Yaeger said options may include incentives to attract more volunteers into the system, including compensation for volunteer firefighters, with the main priority being the safety of firefighters and residents alike.
“It’s kind of intriguing because these consultants as they go across the state realize that this problem is nationwide; this is not a New York State-centric issue or Genesee County-centric issue. This is very much a United States issue,” Yaeger said. “It’s going to be interesting to see that what fits and works in our county may not work in Orleans County.”
Calling it a five- or six-step process that will take some time, he said this week’s schedule of meetings with MRI consultants is an initial phase. Meetings are as follows:
Tuesday – Emergency Services Task Force.
Wednesday – County Manager, HP Hood, Genesee County Economic Development Center, Town of Alabama supervisor (pertaining to WNY STAMP), Chamber of Commerce, Emergency 911 Center officials, County Highway Superintendent (pertaining to the county water supply), Emergency Management Services staff, Fire Advisory Board, GAM.
Today – City Manager, City Fire Chief, Orleans/Wyoming/Monroe county fire coordinators, County 911 Board, Le Roy Ambulance director, Six Flags Darien Lake administration, fire department administrators, municipal fire station visits
Friday – Town of Batavia supervisor, Mercy EMS administration, E3 Communications and continued tour of the county.
“They’re looking to get a real good feeling of the county, including the agricultural impact and our current businesses …” he said. “Also, they will be starting to look at fire stations, fire equipment and fire trucks, which really has never been done; an assessment of our fleet, countywide.”
PROPOSED JAIL COST INCREASE
Landers also reported that an updated cost estimate of the proposed new Genesee County Jail has increased from the pre-COVID price of just shy of $63 million to $69 million.
“I was afraid that the project was going to go up to about $80 million, so I guess to only have a $6 million increase – as crazy as that sounds …,” he said, adding that the county should be able to offset some of that by using American Rescue Plan Act funding it received.
He said the legislature on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to move forward with the project, and that he plans to hold another meeting with the jail committee to make sure there is a consensus for the 184-bed design there as well.
The legislature asked Landers to update the jail operating expenses projections, too.
“Unless something crazy comes out of that, they are supportive of the 184-bed design, four pod jail,” he said.