Chiefs provide updates for Council committee

Providing for city services is an expensive proposition and how to pay for them is a concern. The Dunkirk Fire Department provided a source of income for the city when it began third-party billing for ambulance service two years ago.

Chief Keith Ahlstrom provided figures on this year’s billing proceeds, along with an update on an upcoming review of the city’s three fire halls, during a Monday morning meeting of Common Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Ahlstrom reported the DFD was behind 2012 numbers at this point by 56 ambulance transports, 502 in 2012 to 446 in 2013 for the same time period. That shortfall has cut the sum of $11,000 in collections from 2012 figures for the same period.

“Believe it or not the government shutdown put a lag into our reimbursements, so October … I can’t use it as a true indication because we’ve fallen two or three weeks behind. That will caught up by the end of the year,” he stated. “I think that on a yearly basis we’re real close to being on the $120,000 projection. … We’ve taken in $74,565 to date but we have $24,000 also in the system. It just is not showing. That would put us real close to $100,000, which is where we should be by the end of October. … I’m not making any guesses on call volumes. Our EMS calls are down for the year … if we stay at the same level we are right now, if that works out for the entire year, we’re going to be close.”

It was noted the collections go to the city’s general fund under general revenue.

“It hasn’t been that big a concern for me not being accounted for in my budget,” the chief stated. “Now in 2014, in discussions with the mayor, he has said the $30,000 for the fire hall study … he would like to identify that this is where that comes from and have them offset.”

That fire hall study is to look at remediating the three halls or the cost of combining them into two halls. Ahlstrom said the fire hall study has been narrowed to three companies to do the work with interviews coming shortly. The cost varies from $24,000 to $29,000.

“It’s them telling us what makes the best sense. It’s not us telling them … it’s them taking an unbiased look at the buildings and telling us what makes the most sense dollar-wise to do,” he explained. ” … This is what this is going to tell us, if it would be cheaper, substantially cheaper, to renovate rather than to build.”

Ahlstrom said there are formulas based on square footage and area industry standards that would allow for a quick estimate on a new building if that is what’s needed.

“We’ll be able to compare that without paying someone to tell us. This step may rule out that fixing the buildings isn’t an option. But it may not,” he stated. “It could be something substantially less.”

Buildings aren’t the only thing the department is looking at replacing, the ladder truck is 25 years old, five years past its life expectancy, according to Ahlstrom. He said the truck was fully tested in 2012 with the next test of that type in 2014. This year the department checked what it could on the truck, including the aerial ladder.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if the city was required to have an aerial truck.

“No, you’re not required to have a fire department,” Ahlstrom replied.

Szukala asked if the city couldn’t afford the aerial truck what the ‘sharing’ options were.

Ahlstrom replied that only the village of Fredonia has an aerial truck in the local area, which the city has used when needed. How the city should proceed on the ladder truck issue should begin with mayors and governing boards.

“After people like you make those decisions we find out what the pitfalls are. … I’ve had this conversation in the past with people from Fredonia about what we can and can’t do,” he explained. “It is something to look at.”

Estimates run to over $1 million to replace Dunkirk’s ladder truck while replacing a ladder/snorkel truck would cost over $1.3 million.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce’s proposed 2014 budget does contain $30,000 for a new chief’s car, as the department’s current vehicles at 2000 and 2002 models. The department’s engines, 2000, 2003 and 2006 models, should be good for another 10 years before they are a concern, Ahlstrom added.

The committee also heard from Police Chief David Ortolano, who noted the department will continue its vehicle replacement program with the purchase of a patrol car in 2014. Ortolano also said the change from analog to digital radio communications for the DPD, which is working closely with the Fredonia Police Department, would happen “very shortly.” That change would end the ability of people to follow police activities on current scanner models.

Additional lighting for Washington Park, along with doing something about the city’s older model parking meters, were also discussed.

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