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North East Fire District rocked by resignations

MILLERTON — Stephen Valyou, chairman of the North East Fire District, and Jim Schultz, both resigned as fire commissioners on Nov. 15, effective immediately, one week before the deadline for anyone wishing to run as a candidate for election on Dec. 13.

At that same meeting, Josh Schultz announced that he was not standing for re-election, leaving David McGhee, who presented his written intention to run for election as a commissioner of the North East Fire District, facing no opposition unless a write-in candidate surfaces.

The remaining commissioners are reportedly looking for candidates to fill Valyou’s and Schultz’s positions.

One well-connected candidate, who had been approached, described it as “a thankless job.”

The vacancies could be filled by appointment of the remaining commissioners, or they could make the decision to operate with only three commissioners. Presumably this would include the two remaining commissioners, Larry Selfridge and Jay Scasso, and a newly elected, David McGhee.

Neither Valyou nor Jim Schultz would explain the reasons for their independent decision to leave.

“Personally, I am honored to have served the district and the greater community as a Fire Commissioner for the last six years,” commented Josh Schultz. “I am thankful to both Stephen and James for their years of service to the Fire District. Their long-term vision for the district while balancing the needs and efficiency of the operations and personnel now have left it on a good trajectory going forward.”

Valyou, who has been a commissioner for 12 years and chairman for four years, would only say it was a “very difficult decision to make.” Valyou explained that commissioners are responsible for the safety of citizens and the members of the fire department.

“It’s a huge responsibility and commitment,” he said.

The Fire District is entrusted with the safety of the public and its volunteers. The district is legally a municipality with taxing authority like the county, town, village and school districts.

The funds raised by the Fire District from taxpayers are used to provide the infrastructure that enables the fire company to operate. This includes expenditures on equipment, heat and electricity for the fire houses, vehicles, gas, training, insurance, etc. The recently passed budget of the Fire District next year is $742,375.

The Chiefs of the District, Chief Jason Watson, 1st. Assistant Chief David Schultz, and 2nd Assistant Chief, William Watson are appointed to their positions by the Board of Fire Commissioners. They are elected first by the Fire Company and then those recommendations are forwarded to the District for consideration. The District Chiefs are responsible for day-to-day operations, including incident command at emergency calls, and management and training of District firefighters and personnel.

In contrast to the North East Fire District, The Millerton Fire Company is a separate nonprofit entity with its own officers, board, and bylaws. Lenny Morrison is the president, Kelly Roger is the Vice President with other board members Keith Roger, Patty Lynch, Mike Segelken, and Joe Cawley.

In 2020, the most recent year the Millerton Fire Company filed a tax return, total revenues were $80,000 of which $65,000 was generated by contributions. Expenses totaled $51,000 and included a new air system, gear, uniforms, food and other items.

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