Why are the elected officials in the Towns of Sweden and Clarkson messing with the Brockport Fire Department again? Don’t they realize that they are doing a disservice to a great fire department?
The Brockport Fire Department is an outstanding organization that delivers first rate fire protection at a lower cost than any other fire department in Monroe County.
But the politicians in Clarkson and Sweden don’t seem to care. The Clarkson Town Supervisor is spreading misinformation about forming a fire district and the Sweden Town Council has failed to ratify the fire contract for the third year in a row.
Clarkson has ratified the 2011 fire contract, but the Sweden Town Council is still grandstanding. They know they have no choice but to ratify the new fire contract. They’re just trying to blame somebody else for their past mistakes.
If they don’t ratify the new fire contract by December 31st, fire insurance rates in the town will skyrocket. Insurance companies don’t care a hoot about small town politics; they only care about how many house burn down.
The politicians in Clarkson and Sweden have an axe to grind with the Village of Brockport and they are going to grind that axe no matter how much it harms the Brockport Fire Department.
Instead of cooperating to get things done efficiently, the elected officials in both towns have decided that it’s better to throw another monkey wrench into the works.
That isn’t what they were elected to do, but that’s what they are doing again.
It’s a recurring theme in Clarkson and Sweden politics. But this time the backstabbing is being done differently in the two towns.
On November 10th, Clarkson Supervisor Paul Kimball sent a letter to Brockport Mayor Castaneda in which he incorrectly stated that the Clarkson/Sweden Fire Protection District Study Committee had recommended, “that a fire district be formed.”
Kimball’s statement is absolutely false. According to the Report of the Clarkson/Sweden Fire Protection District Study Committee, and the minutes of the Town of Clarkson Special Intermunicipal Meeting on September 7, 2010:
“It was determined that the creation of a combined Clarkson/Sweden Fire Protection District is the best possible option for maintaining the high quality protection that the towns’ residents have come to expect.”
The New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, report on Fire Protection in New York State makes it quite clear that there is a huge difference between a fire district and a fire protection district.
“A fire district is a separate unit of local government that is established for the purpose of providing fire protection and response to emergencies. A fire district need not have its own firefighters or equipment; it can contract with a neighboring municipality or district.”
“Although the term “fire protection district” is similar to “fire district,” they represent very different ways of managing fire protection. While a fire district is a separate unit of government, run by elected commissioners; a fire protection district is a geographic service area within a town, established for the purpose of fire protection. Towns contract for fire protection services within these districts at the expense of the property owners in that district. The contract may be with a city or village fire department, a fire district, or an independent fire company.”
Clarkson and Sweden both already have Fire Protection Districts, so the recommended change to a single fire protection district is a minor, and probably unnecessary, change.
Nobody in their right mind would form a fire district in New York. According to the New York State comptroller’s Financial Report on Fire Districts published in 2007, fire district spending is out of control. Fire districts generate almost all of their income from property taxes, and in the years 1995 to 2005 fire district property taxes increased 60.4%.
from 1995 to 2005 fire district property taxes increased 60.4%.
Kimball is just spouting off because he wants more control of the Fire Department.
The politicians in Sweden are backstabbing in a different way.
Back in July, the Towns of Sweden and Clarkson alleged that Brockport owed them $267,000 because of excess funds from prior year’s fire contracts dating back to 2003.
However, an analysis of the data actually showed that in 2009 and 2010 Clarkson and Sweden underpaid for their fire protection by $30,089.00.
By law, the fire contracts between the Village of Brockport and the Towns of Clarkson and Sweden have to be renegotiated every year. This is done because the cost of running the fire department is different every year. Annual renegotiation is a good way to make sure that what you pay for fire protection is based on the actual cost of running the fire department rather than on obsolete data.
You would assume that the towns would negotiate in good faith, and that their main concern in the negotiations would be to provide the highest quality fire protection to the residents of Clarkson and Sweden at the best possible price.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Politicians in both Sweden and Clarkson seem more interested in making political hay than in doing what good for the Brockport Fire Department or for the residents of the two towns.
The Clarkson and Sweden Town Councils both deliberately failed to ratify the 2009 and 2010 fire contracts that they had negotiated with the Village of Brockport. They didn’t forget to sign it; they made a conscious decision to not ratify the new contracts because their cost would go up.
It was a low class stunt, but both Town Councils knew that there is a provision in the law that requires the old contract to stay in place so town resident will continue to receive fire protection if the town council does not sign the new fire contract.
So despite the fact that the cost of running the fire department had increased, both Clarkson and Sweden continued to pay for fire protection at the lower 2008 rate.
As a consequence money that should have been available for the fire department wasn’t, because Clarkson and Sweden underpaid for their fire protection by $30,089.00. It’s a good bet that the fire department could have used that money for a worthwhile purpose.
This past summer the Village Board had to vote to cancel the fire contracts, because by law, that was the only legal recourse the Village had to get the towns to stop short changing the fire department and start paying for the actual cost of fire protection.
The two Town Councils didn’t like that. The Village Board had called their bluff and it was blatantly obvious that the town had a bad hand of cards.
So if Sweden doesn’t ratify the new fire contract by December 31st, fire insurance rates in the town will go through the roof.
If Sweden tries to negotiate a fire contract with the fire departments in Spencerport, Holley, or Hamlin, fire insurance rates will also skyrocket because those fire departments can’t possibly respond in a timely manner.
Not signing the fire protection contract is a dumb idea, and so is forming a fire district in Clarkson and Sweden.
The Brockport Fire Department is the best fire department on the planet, so why would you want to throw the baby out with the bath water instead of fixing the problems facing the fire department?
Instead of complaining that there is no long term plan in place, the Clarkson and Sweden.Town Councils should join with the Village Board and have the members of the fire department write a long term plan and then bring it to the Village Board for approval.
Cooperation always works better than sowing dissention in the ranks.