CAROGA - About 20 members of the Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company and concerned residents assembled at the Town Board meeting Wednesday to ensure there would be fire coverage for next year.
They got their wish. The fire company and town agreed to a one-year contract with a 5 percent increase in funding from the amount this year, giving the department $107,568 for 2013.
"This [is] a relief," said fire company Treasurer Brian McIntosh. "We have spent a lot of extra time with this, but we have always had the town's best interest at heart."
Caroga Lake Volunteer?Fire Company Chief Barbara Deluca speaks to the Caroga Town?Board on?Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
The board previously budgeted a 2 percent increase to avoid going over the town budget's 2 percent tax-levy cap, but voted to override the tax cap to give the department the additional $2,528 it was seeking.
The fire tax for 2013 will be 88 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Members of the volunteer department expressed concern earlier this week the town was close to being without fire protection because no new contract had been finalized. Members also were concerned the 2 percent increase proposed by the board would have been bad for the department's finances.
Former Town Supervisor James Selmser said during the public hearing portion of the meeting that he contacted his insurance provider and was told he would have to pay an additional $1,500 for the plan on his house and $400 on his camp if the servicing fire department was more than 10 miles from his house.
"It [not having fire coverage] would add a major cost increase to insurance coverage on residents of the town that should be considered before taking action," he said.
"Everyone in the town of Caroga works as a community to get things done," Supervisor Ralph Ottuso said after the meeting. "My goal was to stay below the tax cap, but the fire contract was something we had to take care of, and I support that."
According to documents provided at the meeting, in the last 10 years, the cost of contracts with the fire company have increased from $47,500 to $103,000.
McIntosh said that is because of state demands, continuous training and rising prices for gear and vehicles.
"Our costs are increasing every year," said McIntosh. "We have to start replacing our equipment. We just replaced six sets of bunker pants and coats that cost us $8,000, and that doesn't cover boots, helmet or masks."
Robert Sullivan, a town councilman who also serves as president of the volunteer fire department, said the 5-percent increase happened for the last five years and was expected to continue for the next five years - before dropping back down to 2 percent increases - so the department can get a new station built.
Chief Barbara Deluca said not getting the 5 percent increase would have set back the plan to replace the current firehouse - which was built in 1952 - by 10 years.