County backs state legislation to address shortage of volunteer firefighters

Photos by Tom Rivers: Firefighters respond to fire late at night on Jan. 5 in Holley, when this house with four apartments displaced 11 residents.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2020 at 7:44 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is supporting state legislation to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.

Dale Banker, the Orleans County Emergency Management director, told county legislators the issue is a growing concern.

“There is a critical shortage of volunteer firefighters and EMS across Orleans County, New York State and the whole country,” said Dale Banker, the Orleans County Emergency Management director.

The Orleans County Legislature passed a resolution on Wednesday in support of the following bills in the State Legislature:

• S.3525 (Breslin)/A.3721 (Pretlow) that requires insurers to issue reimbursement directly to ambulance providers if the insured has filed an assignment of benefits for ambulance services;

• S.6802 (Felder)/A.8817 (Gunther) to increase the volunteer firefighter and EMS state income tax credit to $500 for eligible individuals and $1,000 for eligible married joint filers, beginning in 2020;

• S.3526 (Breslin)/A.6211 (Magnarelli) to ensure that responding ambulance service companies receive direct payment for all ambulance service transports upon submission of an invoice to the insurance company without the need for responding ambulance company to be a preferred provider;

• S.577 (Kennedy)/A.4423 (DenDekker) to allow counties to establish a local tuition grants program for active volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel at state operated institutions, up to 50 percent of tuition required at state operated institutions or community colleges. This legislation also provides that, where a county has created a tuition grants program, the state would reimburse the county at one-half the actual tuition grant established by the county for each eligible volunteer;

• S.1222 (Ritchie)/A.3479 (Zebrowski) give a credit on the New York State income tax for all volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance corps members who are active. In order to be active, the individual would have to attend more than 10% of the company’s activities per year. This plan calls for giving $200 a year for service credit up to a maximum of 10 years, or a maximum of a $1,100 credit.

• Creation of a statewide task force to investigate, promote, and identify funding for the recruitment and retention of volunteer EMS and firefighter personnel;

• S.3685B (Brooks) / A.1778A (Jones) authorizing volunteer fire departments or volunteer fire companies to collect fees and charges for advanced life support services;

• S.1381 (Ritchie)/A.1582 (Jones) to amends the general municipal law, in relation to classifying emergency medical services provided by municipalities as essential services for the purposes of applying for and receiving state aid;

• Grants for volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel recruitment and retention.

Firefighters battled the blaze at Holley on Jan. 5. The house was a total loss. There is a spaghetti dinner on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Clarendon Rec Hall on Route 31A to support the 11 residents displaced by the fire. There will also be a basket raffle, 50/50 and a karaoke contest.

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