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Louisville Town Board issues statement to fire department

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LOUISVILLE — The Town Council issued a stern message to about 15 members of the volunteer fire department at Wednesday night’s board meeting, essentially telling the department that if internal strife is not resolved, it could lose its funding from the town.

The statement was read by Councilwoman M. Gail Schneider. It was the first item on the agenda, and many members of the department left after it was read.

“It has come to the attention of the town board that there is dissension in the Fire Department that is affecting the community,” Ms. Schneider said. “Although we have no legal standing in your organization, as community representatives we felt we needed you to know the ramifications of non-action to fix your dilemma. One, you are losing members. Two, you are losing out on rental of your hall. Three, you could lose your contract with the town. You as an organization need to address this problem before these things happen.”

According to the town’s 2012 budget, its contract with the department is worth $114,500.

After the statement was read, Fire Department Trustee Sandy Roberts responded: “We are tending to this as a department. If you have any questions, we would be glad to answer them.”

Mr. Roberts took issue with the statement that the department is losing members.

“Our membership has stayed the same for about 10 years,” he said.

Councilman Daniel O’Keefe, the liaison between the town board and the department, said he is aware of several resignations from the department.

“Every month I’ve been to the meetings they’ve had two or three resignations,” he said.

When asked for a response Thursday morning, Chief John Sheets said, “There’s nothing I can comment on right now.”

Another department trustee, Pete A. Roberts, said he does not understand why the town board issued such a strong statement. He acknowledged that there had been some resignations, but he said they’re nothing out of the ordinary, noting that it’s not uncommon for members to resign after “getting their 20 or 30 years in.”

“Like any other department, there are ebbs and flows in membership,” he said, noting that five years ago the department had 57 members. Right now, he said, there are 53.

“We just put on one of the best fire conventions ever,” Pete Roberts said, referring to the recent Northern New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association event held last month in Louisville.

Mr. Roberts said the success of that event, which brought in $37,000 to the local community and raised about $10,000 for the department, is clear evidence that things in the department can’t be as bad as they are being portrayed.

“To come out and say something like that after the success of the event we just put on ... I think they need to get all the facts before they say anything,” he said.

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