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May 2--ALBANY -- For the first time, a state commission has recommended taking a hard look at New York's volunteer-led system of fire protection and requiring counties to at least consider assuming more control of their local fire services.

It's such a touchy subject that five of the 15 members of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency -- including Long Island's two members -- voted against even studying the idea.

But commissioners said they'd heard too many "horror stories" on Long Island and statewide about multiplying Taj Mahal fire stations stuffed with brand new equipment, at a time when volunteer numbers are rapidly dropping.

"Our taxes are far too high, and we can't continue to embrace the status quo and expect things to get any better," said Assemb. Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo), chairman of the local governments committee and a member of the commission, which presented its recommendations to Gov. David A. Paterson on Wednesday. "I guess they [volunteers] are a powerful constituency, but at some point we have got to learn to say no."

The commission, which drew in part on findings from Newsday's 2005 Fire Alarm series, emphasized that voters would have to approve, through referendum, any move to give their county broader power to coordinate fire services and review equipment and coverage decisions.

Its report proposed a range of other changes to the fire system:

Requiring all E-911 calls and police, fire and emergency medical dispatch to be handled by counties;

Empowering towns to create their own fire departments;

Holding all fire district elections on Election Day or on the same day in spring, run by the county board of elections, and notifying voters by mail of their fire polling place;

Making it easier to dissolve fire districts -- a measure inspired by the predicament of angry homeowners in the high-tax Gordon Heights Fire District;

Requiring a detailed study of the state's fragmented fire system, and more reporting on fire spending and budgets;

Devising new incentives tailored to younger volunteers.

Fire officials were unenthusiastic about most of the proposals. Bill Young, counsel for the state fire districts association, said putting towns or counties in charge of fire protection would be "extremely difficult" both logistically and because volunteers sign up only to serve their hometowns. Kirby Hannan, spokesman for the state firemen's association representing the volunteers, agreed. He argued for a more tailored solution to Gordon Heights' budget problems but favored the idea of county dispatch and new incentives.

Young also argued that reforms passed by the state in the wake of Newsday's 2005 series should be given more time to work.

Nassau Comptroller Howard Weitzman, who along with Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) opposed studying county management of fire services, said county control would disrupt the sense of community that makes the volunteer system work.

But Weitzman said he will ask the Long Island Regional Planning Board to study countywide dispatching. "There's a lot of solid research that went into those recommendations, and whether you agree with them or disagree they are clearly worthy of discussion," he said.

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So based on what i read, they are going to create county dispatch centers (spending money) and than create an oversite committee to prevent avoidable expenses? I know they think this will work, and in some cases it may, but the outcome usually ends up bleak when politicians create oversite committees.
If they sit with each department and are willing to work with the department on an even level without hostility, it may work.
What a putz.....Some political jerk-off...sticking his fat nose someplace where he has no clue what the hell he is talking about...I would welcome him to walk through just about any Firehouse up here and He wouldn't find any Taj Mahal...nor would he find extraneous equipment.....The system works...leave it alone....we already have Central dispatch for all fire/ems calls.....Paul
No problem. Thanks for your input.
I find it interesting that New York has a dense population.

19,306,183 was the 2006 census bureau's estimate on New York. Thats a lot of people, a lot of jobs, and by far a lot of tax revenue. Wheres all the money going? The roads suck and the potholes will eat your car. The pollution is rampant throughout the NYC metro area (as I am sure elsewhere) (this shows the EPA isn't spending massive money)
What programs are in effect that consume massive amounts of money? (don't bring up welfare)
oh, never mind............. I got it
I can only speak for Suffolk County since that is where I am from. I am not 100% sure that these numbers are exact, but they are pretty close if not. Consolidating 911 and Dispatch service makes sense. Currently there is (at least): 4 Township PD's (who all dispatch at least 1 fire or ems department), 4 Village PD's (at least two of which dispatches fire/ems), 1 Fire District that operates a Dispatch center that handles 5 departments, 1 quasi-public/private dispatch center that dispatches 9 departments, 1 County Police dispatch center and 1 County Fire/EMS Dispatch Center. There are approx 9 primary PSAPs and 3 secondary PSAPs in the County. Every one of these agencies is required to have the same equipment (ANI/ALI, Phase 2 wireless, TDD, voice recording, radio frequencies, radio equipment, etc). Having a centralized 911 Dispatch center would eliminate a lot of duplication.
In Monroe County NY there are something like 8 or 9 PSAPs throughout the county for 38 fire departments covering several hundred square miles and about 700,000+ people. There have been local blog posts talking up the consolidation of the PSAPs into one centralized location, i.e. the county, which already handles the city of Rochester and much of the county.

The blogs also discuss the fact that there are "more rescues and quints per square mile" in this county than a lot of other places. In the end, the taxpayers would save because fewer "parade trucks" would be purchased with their money.

Makes perfect sense to me. However, what I think has to happen is that the county will have to step up and buy out each fire company - quints, rescues, buildings and other equipment. Assuming that a particular department's membership would approve such a deal, then what? What is the equipment worth? Are the stations up to code to permit career folks to staff the station 24/7? Are the career FFs going to be union or non-union? Who supplies the money?

I see the two obstacles as being the willingness of the department to turn its operations over to a government entity, and the ability for the county to pony up the $$ required to run the service.

Just getting some of the "Mom and Pop" departments to surrender its PSAP operation to the county has been quite a struggle in some of the cases.

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