Forestville Fire department considers dumping village control

FORESTVILLE – Uncertainty surrounding the village of Forestville’s future has inspired the fire department to begin to look at going it alone.

In order to be able to receive a loan from the Chautauqua County Legislature to divert a 400 percent increase in taxes, the village had to agree to certain conditions including considering the feasibility of the village in the future and searching for funding for a dissolution study.

Village residents have previously spoken their opposition to dissolution. Village leadership has also taken a stance opposing dissolution based on residents’ feedback.

Despite this, the fire department felt it should look at its options, just in case.

“Chautauqua County wants to the village to do a dissolution study, that’s when we thought we should cover our bases,” Assistant Chief Bruce Hagmier explained.

Hagmier said the department has only just begun the process of looking into becoming a department governed by an elected board of fire commissioners rather than by the village board.

County Emergency Services Director Julius Leone explained there are four types of fire departments: those that are governed by a city, a village, a board of fire commissioners and independent.

He said there is a difference between independent and having fire commissioners.

“With a board of fire commissioners, the members are elected by the community. It is also a taxing entity, like the village board but only with fire protection.

“Independent departments have their own board of directors that are not elected. They have contracts with municipalities for fire protection services,” he explained.

Leone said village fire departments in Chautauqua County include Silver Creek, Fredonia, Brocton, Cassadaga, Westfield, Mayville, Bemus Point, Falconer and Lakewood. City Departments are Dunkirk and Jamestown. There are boards of fire commissioners in Irving, Sheridan, Ripley, Portland, Chautauqua, Stockton, Cherry Creek, Ashville, Clymer, Dewittville, Ellery Center, Ellington, Fluvanna, Frewsburg, Hartfield, Kennedy, Maple Springs and Panama. Independent departments include Sunset Bay, Hanover Center, West town of Dunkirk, East town of Dunkirk, Lily Dale, Sinclairville, Gerry, Busti, Celoron, Findley Lake, Kiantone and Sherman.

“We are doing a feasibility study. We hired a lawyer to help us go through the steps,” he said.

The Forestville Fire Department covers the village as well as fire protection district two in Hanover and a portion of the town of Arkwright.

Hagmier said department officials will be reaching out to the towns as a part of the process.

“We need to find out if the fire district can support the department,” he explained.

He added this process has just begun.

“We have only had one meeting with the attorney so far to get the ball rolling,” he said, adding the department is taking baby steps. “We thought it was time to start checking into this to make sure we stick around.”

Because of the preliminary nature of the process, Fire Chief Kyle Barthel did not want to say too much on the subject.

He did mention that the fire department would like to be able to put this change on the ballot for the November vote.

Forestville Village Attorney Michael Sullivan did not return calls for this article.

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