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Medina firefighter says village government is lean, and often goes outside village borders

Posted 15 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Editor:

I just completed 25 years of service to the Village of Medina and have been a member of Medina Fire Department since July 29, 1987, two weeks after turning 18 and able to become a firefighter callmen for the fire department. I have witnessed a lot of ups and downs in that time. I have seen morale at its best and at its worst more than once.

Throughout the years at budget time the fire department has been on edge fearing cuts or even dissolving the entire department. I have been called a janitor with a badge by a previous fire chief, listened to people who didn’t know me talk about how Medina doesn’t need a paid fire department.

I have had discussions with friends and coworkers on how I would never see five years let alone ten years, and never 20 years as a career member of what I call the greatest job in the world.

Medina is unique. It is a village split between two towns. Whether it is school taxes, county taxes, town taxes or VILLAGE TAXES, taxes are inevitable. If you want decent streets to drive on you need a good Department of Public Works.

Medina’s DPW has gone from 17 workers when I started to nine today. Same amount of work, but fewer hands. Then there are the costs of equipment and materials which hasn’t decreased either. Neither township offered up funds to assist with keeping streets in decent condition, nor did they step up to help fund the pass-thru project back in the early 2000s.

We have a police department that has maintained 11 members with a fiscally conservative boss who manages each year to turn money back to the village, while we send one full-time officer to the county major felony crime task force. We also put an officer in the school. Both positions are partially refunded by the county and the school district.

Our officers go outside the village to assist when the Sheriff’s Department or the State Police. Again, no commitment is made from the towns to help offset the cost to the village.

Then I come to the fire department. We provide primary ambulance service with four equipped Advanced Life Support Ambulances. Prior to being primary the towns had LaSalle/Rural Metro staffing one ambulance. The Village of Medina provided free dispatch service until 1997 and also was the backup service until we took on the primary service in July 2007.

Not one dime is contributed to the service from the towns. I have heard that town supervisors and council members state that any contribution is offsetting the cost for the village fire department. Today there is not one fire department in the western battalion that does not need assistance with a major incident.

The days of volunteers being able to leave Fisher Price, Abex, Bernz O Matic, or Harrison’s are gone, just as those places of employment are. The next problem is keeping members active, with training guidelines and requirements on the increase one simply doesn’t have the time anymore.

We all work to help each other out. Each town contracts with the fire companies in the townships and still they do not have enough money to operate without fundraisers. Our ambulances are going every day, our fire equipment – especially our ladder truck – goes out on every major fire or report of a fire on the west battalion’s first alarm. We also respond with the central battalion departments for major fires or reports of fires west of Route 98.

I still have people joke with me or my co-workers that all we do is sit around and play cards, drinking coffee. Again the village taxpayers fund the cost of maintaining equipment and paying for the staffing, and I am not advocating that we need your assistance, but from the Village Board perspective at budget time, they find it hard to pass the bill along to the village taxpayers when others also utilize a piece of apparatus that costs nearly $1 million today to replace.

And as far as the ambulance service goes, when a study was conducted in 2005-2006 it was estimated that 17 members were needed to adequately staff for approximately 1,800 calls a year. Just this past year it has been reported that the fire department answered over 2,700 calls. We are on pace today to answer nearly 3,000 calls for 2014. Revenues are at $1 million and yet cost of service is still on the village taxpayer.

And not one volunteer department has the manpower of trained members to run an ambulance. Even the volunteer ambulance to the east, COVA, is now a paid ambulance service with full and part-time employees answering the calls that come in each day.

It brings me to this, what as a village home owner do you get for your town taxes paid yearly? The only thing I can think of is NOTHING!! The only time the town has an issue with the village is when the village is a part of rebuilding Bates Road from Maple Ridge Road to East Center Street/Million Dollar Highway.

And then no one questions that the village is paying a third of the cost and nearly half from each township with taxes collected from village home owner taxpayers in the village, or when the town needs to tap into our water line or sewer system. The only time we seem to matter to the two townships is when we ask for relief or assistance in some fashion, or they need us to cast votes to re-elect them to represent, without listening to village home owners.

The sad fact is there is far too much apathy today. No one engages in local government whether it is at the village, town or county level. And our politicians take this as ‘We are doing a good job’ in which I say BULL!!!! People need to start paying attention and become active in your government. It supposed to be Of the People, not just a few who manage to hold onto their positions because of party lines or a lack of interest.

Village Trustee Mark Kruzynski said it best recently at a village board meeting. This is tearing our community apart; this is fracturing friendships and pitting us against them.

Grown ups are supposed to be the example and from Washington DC all the way out to Orleans County one must wonder and ponder REALLY?! Because from where I sit it certainly seems like a certain few can’t play well in the sand box and though some of the players’ faces have changed, it still remains the same.

Both sides of the issue have to step up and resolve the indifference for the sake of the taxpayers. Stop the blame game, tit for tat and other childish rhetoric. Get all sides together at an open community forum – have more than one if needed.

Put together a dissolution committee with town involvement or put the consolidation committee back in play, because a village/town divided is of use to no one!! And being that I am an employee, I very well may come under fire for speaking my opinion, and I can live with that. What I find disheartening is the continued morale plunge I see when I am at work and the thought of what might or might not be in the very near future.

Sincerely

Michael G. Maak
Medina firefighter