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Louisville and its fire department likely to enter 2014 without contract

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LOUISVILLE - Officials with both the town and fire department have said there is not yet a signed fire protection contract guaranteeing the town fire service for the year 2014.

Town Supervisor Larry R. Legault and Fire Department Board of Governors President Sandy Roberts said details of the contract are currently in the hands of town attorney Eric Gustafson and the department’s lawyer.

“It’s all been turned over to a lawyer in Syracuse,” Mr. Roberts said. “So that’s pretty much all I can say.”

Town Councilman Roy A. Slim Beshaw, who has been working as a liaison between the board and department, said among the department’s complaints is a new provision in the contract that outlines how the department will be paid its allocation from the town.

“They want to get their money up front,” Mr. Beshaw said. “They didn’t like the part about being paid twice.”

Mr. Legault said that while it was never actually part of the contract in the past, the town usually paid the department its full allocation sometime early in the year.

“In the past we had paid the department in full upon receipt of our first sales tax payment,” Mr. Legault said. “We usually gave them the money in February.”

This year’s contract, however, includes a provision that divides the town’s payment, of $118,500 into several payments that when totaled will actually be $2,000 more than what it received this year.

According to the new contract, which was drafted by Mr. Gustafson working with Town Councilwoman M. Gail Schneider, the department will be paid $42,000 when its building loan is due and $56,500 on Jan. 1, with the final $20,000 being placed in a joint savings account controlled by the signatures of both the town board and the fire department. That money is broken down with $13,000 for the truck fund, $5,000 for the gear fund and $2,000 for the pager fund.

Mr. Beshaw said part of the reasoning behind the department wanting its money up front is as they are attempting to come into compliance with OSHA regulations and the costs they’re encountering.

“A lot of this has to do with OSHA being in there,” Mr. Beshaw said. They’re way behind on their inspections and training.”

Mr. Roberts acknowledged that the department is currently working with OSHA, but said the problems Louisville is facing with OSHA are not unique to their department.

“A lot of departments have gotten away with stuff for so long, but sooner or later it’s going to hit everybody,” he said. “It’s probably not a bad thing. Everything is connected to safety.”

Town Councilman Patrick D. Carroll asked why the fire department was being targeted by OSHA, and Mr. Beshaw said OSHA’s current involvement with the department was the result of an anonymous complaint lodged against the department.

When asked what would happen if there is no contract in place before the start of the year, both Mr. Legault and Mr. Roberts said they expect business to continue as normal.

“That’s a question for our attorney, but I would bet we will still have fire protection. I don’t see the fire department dropping service because they don’t have a contract,” Mr. Legault said. “They realize how important the service is to the community.”

Mr. Roberts agreed. “It will all come together,” he said, adding he hopes to have a new contract in place before February.

“We’ll let them figure it out,” Mr. Roberts said referring to the two attorneys.

Another change to the contract, but one Mr. Legault said should be beneficial to the department is instead of playing a flat rate of $2,500 for a year’s worth of fuel, the department will now only be billed for fuel they use.

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