Westfield Mayor has concerns about changes
March 18, 2011
There are changes that are being made are designed to bring the Fire Department into the 21st century,” the mayor said. “The bylaws have been in effect for 139 years, and there lies the first problem.
New York state law allows the Village Board to establish a Board of Fire Commissioners with five members, two picked by the Village Board, two by the Officers of the Fire Department and one mutually agreed upon by both the Village Board and the Officers of the Fire Department. Mr. Brown is upset because he will not be one of the members. The Village Board has no intention of running the Fire Department.
Regarding the finances of the department ... a meeting was held (Thursday) with members of the Fire Department and members of the Village Board as well as the village attorney. At that meeting it was agreed upon that each fire company would handle their own finances and that the Board of Fire Commissioners would oversee the budget that is allocated by the Village Board from tax dollars to run the department. As for public donations, if the checks come to the village that check is deposited into the Fire Department reserve fund to be later used for the purchase of equipment. If the check goes to the Fire Department they spend it as they please with no accounting to anyone. As for the purchase of vehicles, I have been the mayor for six years, during that time a new pumper tanker was purchased for $309,000, and a new ladder truck at the cost of in excess of $506,000. Part of the cost came from a FEMA grant, the remainder came from the reserve fund. The funds for the reserve fund are appropriated every year from tax dollars from both the town of Westfield and the village of Westfield. None of these funds were the result fundraising by the Fire Department.
In my six years (as mayor), the fire department has never had a fundraising project. All expenditures have come from the village budget that was appropriated to the department. Under state law, all fundraising by the Fire Department has to have approval of the Village Board. In my six years they have never approached the Village Board for this purpose. Under the new structure, the Board of Fire Commissioners will authorize any fundraising projects. At the time of the request it will be stated the purpose of the project and where the funds will be spent. If the ambulance wants money for new equipment that is where the money will go, to the ambulance fund. If they want a fund raising project for benefit of the firemen’s welfare fund to be deposited into the Exempt account, that is where it will go.
A member of the department has been very successful in grant writing, however, we did not receive $1 million in grant money. The Village Board has to approve accepting of the grant funds and has to be prepared to match the grant and take funds from the reserve fund to pay the balance. The new vehicles replaced two 35-year-old vehicles that were worn out and replacement parts could not be found.
I know nothing about fighting a fire and I do not tell them how they should operate. I have always supported the department through my actions, however I have been fiscally responsible for how their funds are spent.
The fire department is not the only department in the village, and under my administration that have all been treated in the same manner. I have never second guessed, or told any of them how to manage their funds or their personnel. My job is to see that they have adequate funds to operate in a efficient and cost effective manner.
Dave Carr is the Mayor of Village of Westfield.
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