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Fire district needs help to buy generator


NORTH EAST — Fire Commission Chairman George Lind appeared before the North East Town Board and the Millerton Village Board last Thursday evening during a joint meeting to ask for assistance in purchasing a new generator for the firehouse. His reason for seeking help from both municipalities was simple: They both rely on the firehouse to be their emergency shelter in case of a disaster.

"We felt it was a reasonable venture to go to the town of North East to ask for funding for a generator since they came to us to ask us to be their emergency preparedness center," Lind said. "We feel that the funding of this project should be taken on by this town and the village governments."

Lind said he and his fellow commissioners have already sent a formal letter to the two municipalities requesting the monetary assistance, and that purchasing a generator has been "put aside for too long," especially since it’s needed to operate the facility in emergencies.

The request is for $25,000, which would be enough to purchase the proper generator for the firehouse.

"Twenty-five thousand dollars is not a huge amount of money," Lind said. "All we’re asking for is funding for a generator."

The district does have a generator on its rescue truck. But to use it, it must be hooked up at the firehouse, consequently eliminating that firetruck from service while the generator is in use. That’s impractical, according to Lind.

"I can’t have these individuals worried about that," he said. "And they need to know the firehouse is completely operational 24 hours, seven days a week, in any condition. Hopefully the generator won’t be needed, but the price of one life — is it worth $25,000?"

The fire commissioner said that he and his colleagues have considered applying for a grant, but they didn’t think they could afford to wait that long. Additionally, they just received a grant from state Sen. Vinnie Liebell’s office for new gear, and they didn’t know if there would be more grant money in store for them.

"Is there anything that could be a community development block grant request, or even a reimbursement grant?" asked town Councilman Carl Stahovec.

"They don’t do reimbursements," he was told by town Supervisor Dave Sherman.

Mayor John Scutieri asked Lind why the fire department doesn’t budget for the generator out of its own fiscal plan, since it is a taxing entity and does have its own annual budget.

Lind replied that the district has already raised the budget for other items and that it would prefer to get support from both the town and the village.

"If you’re saying there’s no funding from either, then I can put another line into the budget," he said. "I just saw other avenues."

"You’re asking if there are excess funds that we have to give," Stahovec said.

"I think it’s time for both governments to step up," Lind said. "Out of the $151,000 budget we spent more money on fire protection and fire suppression. I don’t have a problem with jumping to a $300,000 budget for the protection of the people. The dollar and cent value doesn’t matter."

"One of the reasons we moved to a fire department commission is so that every dollar you get goes specifically to fire protection," Sherman said. "From the town’s perspective we made our contributions as per contracts. I think it would be best if we focus on what we need to do here. In the future we have the district, because it does have the ability to tax, that it be able to plan, finance and shoulder the load."

"I think at this point I don’t want to hear from the past. Let’s go from this point forward," said town Councilman Dave McGhee. "Are we going to help them or have them put it in their taxes this fall?"

"It’s something that’s way past due," Lind chimed in.

"Certainly it would make sense for us to ask Liebell’s office if there’s something we can get," Sherman said, adding that if the town, village and the fire district appeal as one they might have a better chance of garnering more grant dollars.

It was decided that Sherman would send a letter to Liebell requesting aid. The group also discussed the possibility of securing homeland security grants, which sometimes "cross their desks," according to Scutieri.

"I would hope that we should have some kind of answer by September," McGhee said. "That’s something that you’ve got to have done pretty bad. The village and the town don’t have any backup."

"We don’t have a set reserve fund," Stahovec said of the town.

"Certainly we want to help fund this," Scutieri said. "But just like the others we’re so strapped, we’re really going to have to work hard with grants to do it."

"We should go ahead and do it, this needs to be done," McGhee said. "We have very dedicated personnel and they deserve a lot of credit and all the equipment and facilities they can get."

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