Albion will study if fire district is good fit for fire department

Photo by Tom Rivers: An Albion firefighter directs traffic on March 19 at a car accident with minor injuries on Route 98 in Gaines near the five corners.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2021 at 3:03 pm

ALBION – A committee of Albion firefighters and village officials will be studying if a fire district would make more sense for the fire department, rather than having it part of the village budget.

The fire department is in the village budget, with the towns of Albion and Gaines paying the village in a fire protection contract.

In a fire district, the fire department expenses would be removed from the village budget and the fire district would be its own taxing entity.

The Holley Fire Department recently was moved out of the Holley village budget and is now part of a joint Murray Fire District with the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company.

The Albion Village Board on Wednesday voted to research the formation of a district. Joe Grube, a former Gaines town supervisor, will lead the study. Grube is the current vice president of the Albion Fire Department. He is in line to become the president in May.

He sees the biggest benefit of a fire district is the clear breakdown of the costs of operating a fire department. Right now, the costs are blurred in the village budget. For example, a mechanic in the DPW of the village works on fire trucks while on “village time.” That cost as well as insurance and upkeep of the fire hall aren’t necessarily defined in the village budget.

Grube said the possibility of creating a fire district is “very preliminary.” One issue that needs to be resolved is whether a fire district can cover two towns. Grube said he has only seen fire districts in one town or in part of a town.

The village and fire department discussed exploring a fire district about three years ago, but the effort has been languishing. Grube wants to see the “benefits and detriments” of a district for the towns of Albion and Gaines, and the village of Albion.

“The biggest benefit will be transparency in the costs,” he said. “Right now it is very cloudy because so much of the costs are buried in village budget.”

If Albion does form a fire district, there would be elected commissioners. There would be public hearings and a public referendum for a district to be created.

If the district moves past the preliminary stage, Grube said he expects the committee would expand to include representatives from the two towns.

If there is a new fire district, there would be a separate tax from the fire district that would be part of the tax bill that comes out in January. It would also mean the village tax rate would likely go down because the fire department wouldn’t be included in the village budget. However, there would be a new tax for village residents with a fire district.