Weekly Feature

2011-03-02 / Front Page

Public hearings slated for fire company contracts

by ANDREA KIMBRIEL
Editor

Contracts for several of the fire companies that serve Clarence are back on the Town Board’s agenda.

Public hearings have been set to consider the fire contracts during the March 23 Town Board meeting. Clarence Center, Harris Hill, Swormville and Rapids fire companies have been without a contract agreement.

The public hearings would be to consider entering two-year contracts with the companies at no increase, which would be $775,000 per year for Clarence Center, $715,855 for Harris Hill, $212,849 for Swormville and $40,500 for Rapids.

“The most recent proposal by the fire companies is for the same operating budgets for 2011 and 2012 as were received — Garry Soehner, treasurer, in 2010. For Harris Hill this Harris Hill Fire Company means a total operating increase of .6 percent over six years — 2006 to 2012,” according to Garry Soehner, treasurer of the Harris Hill Fire Company. “All the companies will have to absorb increases that cannot be controlled like fuel, insurance, utilities, equipment and physicals. Our success at attracting new members has necessitated additional costs.”

Councilman Peter DiCostanzo was absent from the Feb. 23 board meeting when the public hearings were set, and Councilman Patrick Casilio recused himself. The rest of the board voted in favor of the motions.

The contracts have typically been approved at the same time as the town’s budget, but that did not occur when the budget was adopted on Nov. 3.

DiCostanzo and Councilman Joseph Weiss had suggested decreasing fire company contractual appropriations by about 2 percent and voted against the budget on Nov. 3.

Weiss, who is a critic of what he considers excessive spending by fire companies, has said during past meetings that he doesn’t think the companies need such large facilities and expensive vehicles.

The risk of fire is less than it was in the town’s agrarian days, and the majority of calls are for emergency medical services, he said.

Joseph J. Schoellkopf Jr., an attorney representing Clarence Center and Harris Hill fire companies, told The Clarence Bee in December that the companies were formally apprised of the suggested decrease during the Oct. 27 Town Board meeting. The town and fire companies have been in negotiations while the companies continued to provide fire protection services.

“There is no guarantee that the budgets will be passed by the necessary majority of those voting. The town and the fire companies cannot afford the time and expense of any further delays,” said Soehner.

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