Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dollars and Safety

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” -
Arnold H. Glasgow

In our last post, we urged a call to arms regarding the piecemeal dismantling of our Village.  We urged voters to arm themselves with questions and insist on answers.  We also urged voters to seek information and arm themselves with facts.

The elimination of the fire department has been rationalized on the basis that the Village can no longer afford a paid department.  Hannon and others have advocated for a volunteer department or a combination volunteer/paid department.  When one examines the relative savings, it is clear that they are few.  And when one examines the cost in terms of life and property, they are clearly too high.

Initially, we would urge you to look closely at your tax bill.  Is it village taxes that are taking the biggest "bite" out of you or school taxes?  Although town of union taxes are modest for Village residents, they would certainly soar with any sort of combined department.  At the very least, there would be a new layer of taxation from a fire district.

In the Town of Union, the average cost for a volunteer fire department is $32.83 per thousand of assessed value.  Currently, Johnson City's fully paid and quick responding department costs Village residents $53.36 per thousand of assessed value.  If the Village were to go to a totally volunteer department, the cost savings would be $20.53 per thousand of assessed value.  This translates into an average savings of 82.12 per year or 22 cents per day for the average Village resident.  If the Village were to go to a combination volunteer/paid department, the savings would be even less.

And what would you be giving up?  It seems likely that EMS service would go by the wayside since this accounts for a large percentage of calls answered by the fire department.  The department would likely no longer have the manpower to respond to EMS calls.  You will be at the mercy of the already overtaxed UVES.

Effective response time would also be greatly hindered.  In a volunteer department, you would be waiting for responders to report to the fire station and then respond to your emergency.  And that's assuming anyone responds to the call.  And when they arrive on the scene, will they have sufficient manpower to "knock down" the fire or will they simply keep it from spreading to your neighbor's home and preserve your foundation for the rebuild?   In a combination department, the paid fire fighters may arrive quickly, but will they have the manpower to effectively fight the fire or are they relegated to waiting for volunteers to arrive?

Simple minds may relish in simplistic solutions.  But even the most cursory consideration of the changes being discussed raise serious financial and safety questions.  And it is up to us to ask the questions and insist on answers.

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