Congressman asked to help with grants for Medina FD

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Congressman Chris Collins meets with Medina firefighters, including Captain Jonathan Higgins, on Thursday. Collins toured the firehall and saw how the bigger fire trucks barely fit into the building.

MEDINA – The Medina Fire Department welcomed Congressman Chris Collins to the fire hall on Main Street on Thursday, a building that is tight for space for fire trucks, ambulances and other equipment.

Captain Jonathan Higgins told the congressman the Fire Department is the primary ambulance provider for western Orleans County, and is increasingly called to the Albion area and eastern Niagara County.

“We’re the hub for the surrounding departments,” Higgins told Collins.

The department’s call volume has jumped from about 300 a year a decade ago to 2,986 in 2014, the most ever in the department’s history.

The fire department has an aging equipment fleet, with a ladder truck at 20 years old, a fire engine/pumper at 25 years old and another engine/pumper at 8 years old, Higgins told Collins.

The department has four ambulances and should replace one every year. It last replaced one in 2013.

Higgins said the department and Village Board are sensitive to the tax burden on village residents. Medina village residents pay the highest combined tax rate for village/town/county/school taxes in the Finger Lakes Region.

The Fire Department is pursuing federal grants to help add two paid firefighters to ease overtime and ensure reliable service to the community. The Fire Department is also seeking about $90,000 in federal funds to replace fire hoses, nozzles and a thermal imagining camera.

“We’re trying to exhaust every option possible before we have to go to the local taxpayers,” Higgins said.

Collins said he and his staff would connect the department to funding options, and monitor the current grants that have been submitted.

Congressman Chris Collins meets with Medina firefighters in their cramped fire hall on Thursday.

Higgins said the department should be looking to replace the ladder truck. That could cost $1 million, compared to $500,000 about 20 years ago. Medina’s fire hall gives less than a foot of clearance from the top of the current fire truck. The new ladder trucks are taller and wouldn’t fit in the fire hall unless the truck was customized. Higgins said that would drive up the costs of the ladder truck.

A better option may be putting on a taller truck bay next to the existing fire hall, Higgins said. But that would have a cost and would have to meet historic preservation standards because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The space for ambulances also is a tight fit as those vehicles get bigger.

Collins noted how compact the vehicles were inside the building. “You’re double-stacked in here,” he said.

Higgins said the space and financial issues are difficult to solve for the village, which he told Collins only receives a tiny amount of state aid compared to similar size-cities. The small share of state revenue plus local sales tax shifts most of the tax burden on the village residents, Higgins said.

“We have huge issues here, but we can’t go to the taxpayers and ask for more money,” Higgins told the congressman.

Collins also spent time on Thursday on the Iroquois Job Corps Center in Shelby and the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Basom.