Elsmere Fire District voters have strong reasons to vote no on the Tuesday, Dec. 12 vote to build a new fire station at the corner of Feura Bush Road and Wemple Road: 1) It will cost tax dollars to fund the $1.3 million bond, 2) We already have two fire stations less then 2 miles from this proposed site, 3) Voters have been given inadequate notice of this proposal (published in the media on Friday, Dec. 1, a public information session on Wednesday, Dec. 6 and the vote is on Tuesday, Dec. 12 — all during the busy holiday season).
Yet, the most important reason to vote no on December 12 is that all five of Bethlehem’s fire districts should be focusing on consolidating/sharing services and adjusting district boundaries, where necessary. That is a far better way to improve fire call response times, reduce increasing fire service costs and deal with dwindling number of volunteer firefighters.
Seven years ago, as Town Supervisor I watched as all five fire departments engaged in the Manitou Inc. consulting study. At that time, each and every fire department only agreed to participate if consolidation and district boundary lines were “off-the-table”. Therefore, these critical matters were not in the contract. It was a big mistake to avoid these controversial but essential questions.
Each of Bethlehem’s fire districts has a great deal of history, tradition and pride, and that’s as it should be. And, no volunteer activity gives more in terms of community service, and requires personal training and time. But this is the time for the Fire District Commissioners and department leaders to do the right thing for the entire Town of Bethlehem. And that is, take a good hard look at our existing facilities, personnel, equipment and fire district boundaries, and determine how all of the Town’s regions can be best served. It is simply not reasonable or responsible to expend more money on new facilities until we carefully consider these matters.
As a Glenmont resident living within the Elsmere Fire District and a social member of that department, I will be voting no on December 12 at the Elsmere Fire House, 15 West Poplar Drive (next to St. Stephens’s Episcopal Church). I hope you will do the same.