Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fire District Elections coming up

Don't forget the elections of Fire District Commissioners is coming December 8th for the East Greenbush Fire District. This is for Sherwood Park, East Greenbush Village, Route 4 corridor areas. (The date might be the same for the other two districts, not sure).There are three fire districts in the Town. If you don't know which one you are in, find out! Get involved and vote. These elected officials are generally voted in by active members of the fire departments and their family members solely because not enough other residents know about the elections. They are also members of the departments they are in charge of, but don't have to be. This is letting the fox guard the henhouse. If the only people voting for you are the people in the fire departments, how would you as a commissioner spend money? The fire districts are the closest thing we have in politics that residents have direct control over. Look at your tax bill! There is a fire tax listed on it as well as and ambulance district. These are volunteer organizations but not a free service. Generally, the commissioners are responsible stewards of our tax spending, but not always. Ask yourself why does the City of Albany with 90,000+ residents and double that during the work day and a paid fire department run 8 engines, 4 ladder trucks 3 paramedic squads and a heavy rescue for 20,000 calls versus East Greenbush Town with approx. 11 engines, 2 ladders trucks, various utility vehicles, 2 or 3 ambulances and at least 6 Chiefs cars for (guessing here) approximately 7,000 calls (be careful here as car accidents with personal injury or assumed PI will count as a separate call for the FD and for Bruen so simply adding all department totals together will inflate the number). The City of Albany has eight fire stations and our Town has 8 fire/ambulance stations. Clinton heights are less then a mile apart and East Greenbush North station and Bruen Ambulance less then half a mile apart! If we reduce the number of engines, we could reduce the number of stations. The Fire Districts, our tax dollars, own the fire equipment and pay the Fire Companies rent to house the trucks in the independent company stations. The fire fighters "work" for the company, but most of the funds are from the rent paid for by the districts. Other funds for the companies are from fund drives and rentals of fire halls, etc. Did you know that the paramedics in town are paid, not volunteer? Did you know that the Town fire chiefs utilize their department vehicles to drive to and from work with work locations within town and outside? Why are we subsidizing their commuting expenses? for the rare possibility that a call may come in on their way home from work? Can they actually leave work to respond to a call? There are many ways to save money in the fire districts, but only if you get involved. Did you know that the fire fighters earn credits for their time and rank that they collect as a "retirement" after age and service time requirements are reached? It may not be a lot of money, but they are being compensated for their efforts. Did you know, once they start collecting these "pensions" they can continue to serve? These are just some of the things going on that we as voters have control over, but only if we get involved! Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves! With three separate fire departments in the Town, at any given time approximately half of the available volunteers can't respond to a call because it is in the other fire district. If they need help, they will call out the other department(s), but with fire doubling in size every minute, seconds can make the difference between life and death! Don't get me wrong, we have some of the finest fire fighters and EMS personnel in the region and I am proud of the service they provide, but why don't we watch the costs of these services just because they are volunteers?

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