MACEDON — The Town Board is expected to approve the annual fire contracts on Thursday night, Oct. 24. However, at this time, the village department’s contract is not among them, as the dispute between town and village officials over fire services continues.
The contract amount varies dependent on assessed value of property in the fire district on the south side of the Erie Canal — the fastest growing district in the town. This particular fire district includes the Route 31 corridor where Walmart, Lowes and other business have been setting up shop in recent years, with more on the way. It’s also a district the village fire department has served for over 114 years.
In April, the town signed a five-year agreement with the Macedon Center Fire Department to cover the same territory. That agreement goes into effect in January. Then at its last meeting, the Town Board authorized the formation of a new fire company to be called South Macedon Fire and Rescue, which would serve the town south of the canal.
Both actions have left members of the village fire department wondering about their future. Without a signed contract by the end of December, the Macedon Village Fire Department’s $146,940 budget will have a shortfall.
Fire Chief Tim Wilcox said he develops a budget every year and then sits down with the village and goes through it line by line. Once the total budget is set, the village develops a contract with the town for 70 percent of the budget’s total, and the village puts in the remaining 30 percent, Wilcox said.
At the end of the year, if there’s money left over, he said, it is placed in a truck reserve fund. Last year, over $12,000 went into the reserve fund. The department is on a 20-year cycle for truck replacement.
Not included in the town’s portion, according to paperwork received from the village, is $18,500 for worker’s comp and $33,035 for the bond that was used to purchase a new truck. Together, they make up $41,535 of the $42,612 that makes up the village’s 30 percent portion of the budget.
Supervisor Bill Hammond said the town hasn’t decided whether it will sign another contract with the village.
“We’re not building any equity in that district,” he said. “We’re paying 70 percent of the bill, and in the long run we have nothing to show for it.”
Earlier this year, the town and village met in a joint meeting to hash out problems between the two municipalities. From that meeting, the town said it expected to gain property rights on the department’s trucks, to pay 35 percent of the contract directly to the fire department and for the village to show accountability on where the rest of the money was going. According to the town, those expectations were never realized.
Wilcox, however, disagrees. He has always attended Village Board meetings, and since the trouble between the two municipalities over fire services heated up, he has been advocating for the fire department. He said his words didn’t fall on deaf ears, and the village revised the contract to allow the town to hold the reserve fund and pay the 35 percent directly to the department. The newly revised contract was presented to the Town Board about three months ago, Wilcox said.
Hammond conceded that in other contracts the town has no say once the contract is signed, but in those other fire contracts, the money goes directly to the fire department. The difference with the village’s contract, he said, is the money goes to the village and board members question its credibility. Hammond reaffirmed the town does not have issue with the fire department or the services they provide.
As for the new fire department, the authorization to form one is merely a formality required under state law, Hammond said. There will be no contract with the proposed department until they present a sound budget to the board, he added.
Wilcox sees several problems with forming a new department. First, the department would need at least two to three trucks, and a used 20-year-old truck runs a minimum of $180,000 to $190,000, he said. Then there is equipment, hand tools and hoses to buy for the trucks, not to mention turnout gear and air packs for the firefighters, estimated to be at least $2,000 per person, Wilcox said.
Most important are the volunteers, he said. Wilcox said they have had a good volunteer base this year, but it’s not always like that. There’s also a problem with keeping volunteers, he said, since many don’t realize all that firefighting entails. Right now, Wilcox said, the volunteer base is already tapped out, and it is unlikely a new department could find enough members without taking volunteers from other existing departments.
“I think that most of the volunteers that are willing to volunteer are already doing it,” he said.