Pomfret gauging interest for alternative fire, EMS options

Several months after a negotiations impasse with the village of Fredonia over a two-year fire protection district contract extension, town of Pomfret leaders are now looking to form a committee that would explore the viability of alternative emergency response services other than solely contracting with the Fredonia Fire Department.

Ken Balling of Bear Lake Road asked during the public portion of a recent town board meeting if town officials would consider forming a committee to look into the matter. The board obliged by announcing any residents interested in being on such a committee, if it actually forms, should send a letter to the town clerk by May 1.

“I sense a genuine concern from you guys about the amount of money you’re paying in that contract and there may be an interest in looking at some alternatives,” Balling told the board. “A committee could look at the issue and take it off you guys for a little bit and look to see what recommendation they can come up with to basically get us out of this position. You’re in no position to negotiate; Fredonia’s going to set the rate, and if you don’t sign it (in another two years), you have no protection because mutual aid does not cover a township that does not have an active fire and emergency protection contract with someone.”

Both board newcomers, Christopher Schaeffer and Brett Christy, agreed with Balling and said now is the best time to start looking at other options before another contract extension with Fredonia needs to be signed.

“I’m not here to bash Fredonia or anybody else,” Balling emphasized. “I know how much of a political hot potato this issue is. I’ve been working on this issue for 25 years and I think it’s a major concern for the town. I would be willing to serve on the committee and I think others would be if indeed (the board) is truly interested in looking at and addressing this issue.”

Pomfret contracts with Fredonia for townwide fire and emergency medical services (excluding Lily Dale, which has its own fire department), but some areas in the town, particularly in the southern portion, are closer to other fire companies, such as Brocton or Cassadaga.

The contract with Fredonia currently costs the town $845,000 for two years. Those two years will be up at the end of next year.

Once the letters of interest deadline of May 1 passes, the board will discuss what it would like to do about the committee at its May 14 regular meeting.

The next board workshop session is Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. A state representative will attend that meeting to speak to the board about doing a revaluation.

A public hearing regarding a proposed local law allowing for the awarding of bids by best value will be held April 9 at 6:15 p.m., which is 15 minutes before the next regular meeting.

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