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LETTER: Fire departments have done much with study

As each District considers a major purchase, renovation or change, recommendations from the study are considered and information shared with the other districts at the collaborative meetings, each district operating within the constraints of the law. For example, Selkirk recently sold their ladder truck. Elsmere is currently providing 24/7 truck company coverage for the Selkirk Fire District while Selkirk does an evaluation of their district’s requirements. The aforementioned progressive agreement has provided that firefighters from both Elsmere and Selkirk man Elsmere’s Truck 30.

Combining procured services is also beginning. Elsmere and Slingerlands combined a contract which resulted in a savings of approximately $2,500. Besides the savings to the districts, this example provides insight to the successes we can realize in future ventures as well.

Each fire district in town has a “Length of Service Awards” Program. Due to the exponentially increasing costs of the current program, Elsmere’s Board of Fire Commissioners proposed changing from the defined benefit program to a defined contribution plan. This was put up for public referendum and passed by the voters of the Elsmere Fire District. This change will result in an immediate savings of tens of thousands of dollars in 2013 and help contain costs in future years.

One suggestion the study recommended was that in 10 years, the fire departments in town merge into a single unit. There has been dynamic grown in town over the past 10 years (Wal-Mart, Lowes, Vista Park, traffic circles, new housing developments, etc.) and fire districts have to include that trend in their planning, something not included in the study. The legal impediments and the organizational differences in the different districts may make formal “merger” impractical but districts are actively working towards operating more like single entity by engaging in a more cooperative and collaborative working relationship. Fire districts are also talking with the new Delmar-Bethlehem EMS and Albany County Sherriff’s Department in order to ensure an ability of fire and EMS collaboration on resources when possible. The collaboration also helps to enhance the outstanding fire and EMS services provided to the residents of the town.

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