Albion, Gaines set Aug. 6 for public vote for joint fire district

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Albion ladder truck drives in the Strawberry Festival parade on Saturday. The truck is 27 years old. A new one could top $2 million.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 June 2024 at 9:12 pm

ALBION – A public will decide whether Albion and Gaines form a joint fire district. The town boards in Albion and Gaines this evening set Aug. 6 for a public referendum on the issue, with voting from noon to 8 p.m. at Hoag Library.

Each town will have its own room for voting on that day in the library. Eligible Village of Albion residents will vote in whichever town they live in.

This is how the proposition will be listed on the ballot:

“Shall the resolution authorizing the Board of Trustees for the Village of Albion, the Town Board of the Town of Albion and the Town Board of the Town of Gaines, Orleans County, New York, dated April 30, 2024, to establish a Joint Fire District to be known as the Albion Joint Fire District, which fire district will encompass the Village of Albion, the Town of Albion and the Town of Gaines be approved?”

The two town boards set the date for the referendum after petitions were turned in to force the public vote.

The petitions were filed on May 30. Today was the last day for the two towns to set the referendum, Albion town attorney Jim Bell said during the Albion Town Board meeting.

Bell was joined by Albion Town Clerk Sarah Basinait and Gaines Town Clerk Janet Cheverie in a meeting today with the Orleans County Board of Elections.

Elections officials advised that the referendum can be held in one location – Hoag Library at 134 South Main St.

Each town will have four election inspectors, and there will also be one floater for both towns.

Albion and Gaines will send a postcard to all households, advising of the vote, and the referendum will be posted as a legal notice in The Daily News of Batavia, and also will be advertised in the Orleans Hub.

The deadline to receive absentee ballots will be 5 p.m. on Aug. 6.

There are about 3,600 registered voters in Albion. Bell said the ballots cost about 50 cents each. He expects a brisk turnout for the vote. He and Basinait suggested about 3,000 ballots be printed for Albion. Bell said it is better to have too many rather than not enough.

The Gaines and Albion town boards, and the Albion Village Board voted on April 30 to create the joint fire district, which was subject to a permissive referendum.

Residents had until May 30 to turn in petitions signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election. That standard was met, with the fire district going to a public vote.

Petitions were turned in to the Gaines town clerk signed by 107 people, to the Albion town clerk signed by 95 people and to the Albion village clerk signed by 259 people.

The new district would move the fire department out of the village budget and into its own taxing jurisdiction with elected commissioners.

The two towns currently pay a fire contract to the village for fire protection. With the current budget of about $350,000 the village pays $113,456 (32 percent), the Town of Gaines contributes $120,422 (35 percent) and the Town of Albion pays $116,122 (33 percent).

Some community members have sought more information about the fire district, including a budget breakdown. During a public hearing on April 24 at the Albion High School LGI, residents were told the fire district budget would likely be $750,000 to $850,000 a year, well above the current $350,000 for the fire department. That $350,000 has left the fire department without a reserve fund for a new ladder truck at an estimated $2.2 million and another fire engine at about $1.1 million.

Deputy Chief John Papponetti provided a breakdown of a budget outline for the fire district during a meeting at the library from 6 to 8 p.m. Those numbers will be detailed in a story expected on Tuesday in the Orleans Hub.

Papponetti said five fire commissioners will ultimately set the budget, but he said the current budget leaves the fire department with no reserves for apparatus and equipment. More money will be needed to keep the fire department “on track,” Papponetti said.