Village Of Alden Press Release Regarding the Future of Emergency Services Outside the Village.
(Via the Village of Alden FB Page)
For nearly seventy (70) years, the Village of Alden Fire Department and more recently, the Village of Alden Emergency Services Department have provided fire protection services for a large portion of the Town of Alden along with the Crittenden Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., the Millgrove Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., and the Townline Fire Company, Inc. The Village Fire Department was manned by the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc. which was officially organized in 1949.
The Town of Alden and the respective Fire Companies and Departments had operated under a Boundary Agreement that remained virtually unchanged, except for minor agreements between the respective fire chiefs for the same seventy (70) year period.
Historically, the Village of Alden Fire Department and the Village of Alden Emergency Services Department had covered the most number of calls in the Town of Alden and provided excellent services to the residents in both the Village and the Town.
In August of 2020, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pronouncements of a potential loss of funding to municipalities from the State of New York, the Town, Village and the four fire companies and department agreed to a one year extension of the existing Fire Protection Agreement with a nominal funding increase of one and a half percent (1.5%) by the Town of Alden with the fees to be split equally between the four providers.
During a review of the agreement by the Village and the Fire Department, it was decided that since the ownership of all of the equipment, the insurance, and all of the supplies rested with the Village of Alden, the proper signatories to the agreement should be the Village of Alden, as was the custom, and the Fire Chief of the Village of Alden Fire Department since the funds were not used by the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc., but rather by the Fire Department. A request for that change was then sent to the Town Attorney. No other changes with respect to payments by the Town, length of the agreement, or any other clause in the contract were sought by the Village of Alden, the Village of Alden Fire Department, or the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc.
In response to that request, the Town of Alden Supervisor, the Hon. Dean Adamski, questioned the legality of not only the Fire Department and the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc., but also the Fire Protection Agreements that had been in place, virtually unchanged except for payment amounts, for decades, along with the property tax exemption held by the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc. on Substation 2 in the Town. In response to those allegations, the Mayor of the Village of Alden, the Hon. Mark Casell, forwarded the Organizational filing documents with the Department of State of the State of New York for all four fire companies which showed that all four were similarly organized as not for profit organizations in the State of New York. Also forwarded by the Mayor were excerpts from State tax laws that addressed the tax status of the fire companies. In addition, and in response to the request of the Town Supervisor as provided in the Fire Protection Agreement, the Mayor forwarded financial information to the Supervisor. The legal arguments with regard to the existence of the Fire Department in the Village was also forwarded by the Village Attorney to the outside counsel hired by the Supervisor.
During the second weekend in October, the Supervisor held a private meeting with the three other fire companies and did not invite either the Village of Alden or any representative from the Village of Alden Fire Department even though both of those entities had previously been involved in the negotiations over the successor Fire Protection Agreement that was scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2021. Then on October 26, 2020, the Town Supervisor forwarded a letter to the Village of Alden indicating that the Town was not going to enter into an agreement with the Village of Alden or the Village of Alden Fire Department for the provision of fire protection services on the alleged, and factually inaccurate basis, that neither the Village nor the Fire Department had supplied requested information to the Town. By the time that statement was made, the terms for the new Fire Protection Agreement were already two (2) months old and were unchanged, and the financial information required under the old agreement was in the possession of the Supervisor. Even though the agreement required no additional information to be supplied, it was still sent to the Supervisor prior to the letter being sent to the Village, indicating that the Town had no intention of entering into an agreement with the Village.
In response to this sudden reversal, both the Village of Alden Mayor and Board of Trustees, along with the Fire Chief of the Village of Alden Fire Department, the President of the Alden Hook & Ladder Fire Co., Inc., and the head of the Benevolent Association expressed their concern about the safety of people and property with regard to the provision of fire protection and emergency medical services for those residents and businesses which would be immediately affected by this change. The Fire Chief also expressed his concern over the affect that this would have on the fire insurance ratings and insurance premium costs for the businesses and families in the area due to the increased response time which would clearly happen due to the lack of proximity to a fire hall for the homes and commercial buildings. The insurance ratings for those affected would likely be negatively changed as a result of the decisions of the Supervisor and the Town Board.
In spite of the decision by the Alden Town Board, all of the representatives of the Village, including, the Mayor, the Board of Trustees of the Village, and the Fire Chief, assures everyone that the Village of Alden Fire Department will continue to answer all mutual aid calls within the confines of the law anywhere in the Town and not forsake the Town residents due to the changes made by the Town of Alden effecting the Fire Coverage Boundary Agreement. For liability, insurance, and worker compensation reasons, the Village cannot simply unilaterally respond to Fire Dispatch calls which will now be rerouted to the other, more distant, fire companies, but rather, must wait the additional time for a mutual aid call to be made by the responding fire company in charge. As everyone knows, minutes can be critical with any emergency, and the Village will continue to do what it can legally do in order to protect the lives and property of the people of Alden. Due to the actions, however, of the Town Board, consisting of the Town Supervisor, the Hon. Dean Adamski, and Coucilwomen, the Hon. Colleen Pautler and the Hon. Gina Waiss, the response times will undoubtedly increase.