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Fonda officials discuss merging fire departments

September 14, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA - In the face of economic troubles and questions about spending and budgeting, the village is looking at the possibility of merging of the Fonda Volunteer Fire Department with other local fire departments.

According to Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler, he and members of the Village Board met with members of the Mohawk Fire District Board of Commissioners last month to discuss cost-cutting measures and ways to save taxpayers money - perhaps merging the Fonda and Mohawk fire companies.

Fonda Fire Chief Donald Wagoner and Peeler agree that the main contention between the Village Board and the Fire Department is the control of the budget. According to Wagoner, multiple requests to have the fire engine serviced or replaced were denied until the Fonda Village Board meeting Monday night, and that it is impeding their abilities. Peeler said there have been problems with the department never sending in a budget, instead approaching the board only when it needs money, according to Peeler.

Peeler said he has applied for two grants to replace the department's fire engine and to set up educational services for the training of volunteer firefighters.

Peeler said merging departments could help with the costs of the fire departments. Peeler said that the state has offered funds to help give incentives to municipalities to merge departments.

However, both Peeler and Wagoner said nothing about consolidation is certain yet. Peeler said he is searching for the "best way to handle this."

"We're going to do what makes sense," Peeler said.

Peeler said that with unemployment in the village reaching 10.3 percent in June, officials need to look for some way to lower costs and save money. However, he is looking for fiscal responsibility, claiming that predecessors have cut whole departments out of the budget.

At Monday night's Board of Fire Commissioners meeting, Wagoner accused the mayor of holding an illegal meeting to dissolve the Fonda Fire Department. Wagoner said he only heard of this meeting after it happened.

According to Peeler, the Village Board was invited to the meeting, and its purpose was not to dissolve the fire department.

Wagoner said he has no problem with the idea of consolidation, so long as he "was kept in the loop."

Adam Schwabrow, first assistant fire chief of the Mohawk Fire Department, said consolidation could help.

"I don't think its a bad thing. More manpower. Any time you can get more people to help, it's a good thing," Schwabrow said.

However, Schwabrow said he thinks it is premature to pursue consolidation without further study.



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