Holley, F-H-M will form combined Murray Joint Fire District

Photos by Tom Rivers: The fire hall for the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Volunteer Fire Company is pictured on Wednesday evening. The site hosted a public hearing on consolidating the Holley Joint Fire District and F-H-M Fire District.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 September 2020 at 8:12 am

Dave Knapp, left, and Frank Balys, commissioners for the Holley Joint Fire District, sign an agreement on Wednesday following a public hearing to form a new Murray Joint Fire District, which combines the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray and Holley fire districts. All seven commissioners from the two districts voted in favor of the merger on Wednesday.

HULBERTON – The fire commissioners the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray and Holley joint fire districts voted Wednesday night to form a new Murray Joint Fire District that combines F-H-M and Holley.

The new joint district will take effect on Jan. 1. The commissioners from the two districts need to work together before then for a budget for the new district and also to pick the fire chief and a deputy chief for the Murray Joint Fire District.

F-H-M and Holley will continue to have separate volunteer fire companies that comprise the personnel. Those fire companies will pick a station chief and the line officers at Holley and F-H-M.

The joint district will have elected commissioners who will pick the district fire chief and district deputy chief, and the commissioners will also set the budget and oversee spending and the equipment for the district.

Fire commissioners moved to consolidate the district citing manpower concerns and potential budget efficiencies. The two fire companies already work together on many fire calls and emergency responses in Murray. F-H-M covers about a third of Murray, the western end, while Holley’s district covers the rest of Murray including the Village of Holley.

The consolidated district will have one tax rate for the entire town. In 2020, property owners in the Holley Joint Fire District pay $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed property while F-H-M pays a $1.39-rate. The consolidated district will result in a lower rate for Holley, while F-H-M’s goes up.

About 20 people attended the public hearing inside the F-H-M fire hall. The new district takes effect on Jan. 1. Gradually the number of fire commissioners will be reduced from five each in the two districts or 10 now to seven.

The average Holley property owner will see the fire protection tax go up $10 to $20 in F-H-M, while Holley’s drops $10 to $20, said David Garwood, an attorney with Pinsky Law Group in Syracuse. His firm advised the two districts in the consolidation.

“The net effect for the average taxpayer is fairly small,” Garwood said. “It’s not a huge change.”

Holley’s rate is higher mainly due to the debt service on a new ladder truck. That truck will become property of the new joint fire district, meaning F-H-M will have ownership in that truck, Garwood said.

David Garwood, an attorney with Pinsky Law Group in Syracuse, goes over the consolidation agreement during Wednesday’s public hearing. The new joint district will own the assets and also be responsibilities for the liabilities with each current district. Ed Morgan, a commissioner for the F-H-M Fire District, is at right.

Eventually, F-H-M will have some of its equipment and fire trucks get too old. F-H-M may not have to replace some of them because Holley will already have it, offering F-H-M savings in the future, said Ed Morgan, a F-H-M commissioner.

The agreement was unanimously approved by the fire commissioners at the meeting on Wednesday. Mark Porter of Holley made a motion to approve the agreement, which was seconded by Frank Balys of Holley. They voted in favor of the consolidation, along with Doug Heath and David Knapp of Holley, and the F-H-M commissioners of Bob Miller, Bill Bower and Ed Morgan. Al Buell of F-H-M and Chris Glogowski of Holley weren’t at the meeting. F-H-M also has one vacancy among the commissioners.

Each year, there is a fire commissioner up for election in Holley and F-H-M. In the next three years, only one will be elected annually. That will reduce the group from 10 to seven members.

Holley’s assets total $3,241,059, about twice the value of F-H-M’s at $1,541,391. Holley’s liabilities are at $685,000 for the bond to pay off the new ladder truck. F-H-M’s only liabilities are a $20,000 lease for the fire hall which is paid annually. to the F-H-M Volunteer Fire Company.

David Knapp, one of the fire commissioners form Holley, said the fire trucks and apparatus will be labelled Murray Joint Fire District. That might not happen right away on all the trucks, but the district would like to begin labelling some of the trucks for the new joint fire district in 2021.

Ron Meiers, a former Holley fire chief, asked a question about officer elections. Each fire company will continue to elect their officers for each station, although the fire chief and deputy chief will be appointed by the fire commissioners of the Murray Joint Fire District.

The Holley Fire Department used to provide fire protection for the entire town of Murray. Holley also served the Town of Clarendon. In the 1950s and 1960s, F-H-M and Clarendon each formed their owned volunteer fire companies and secured fire protection contracts from their towns.

Holley continued to work with the neighboring fire companies in the eastern battalion, especially with the declining number of volunteers to respond to fires, car accidents and other emergencies.

The community probably won’t notice the change to the Murray Joint Fire District because the two fire companies already function as a team on many mutual aid calls.

“It will be a seamless transition,” Garwood said. “You work together anyway right now.”

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