Consolidation worth the cost

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To The Editor:
This past week in the Catskill Mountain News I read, with interest, the article about the Middletown-Hardenburgh/Village of Margaretville fire district consolidation discussions. While reading the article I found several references to firefighter’s opinions on the consolidation that seem to indicate that the decision makers are the firefighters who man the equipment for the village and town districts. In attendance at that board meeting were members of the district commissioners, not firemen. These were the people who spoke of the consolidation.

As I am a longtime firefighter and officer on the business side of the department, I would like to state for the record that at no time has the Margaretville Fire Department or its membership ever been asked to take a stance on the consolidation, nor, has it ever discussed the issue at a meeting except to inform members that the process for consolidation is proceeding. This was also true at the time of the dissolution of the Halcottsville District and its incorporation into the Middletown - Hardenburgh #2 District.

The Margaretville Fire Department is a member-run department that supplies manpower to the district for the purpose of fighting fires and responding to whatever emergencies arise in the fire district. When we need equipment to accomplish our tasks we usually present the rationale to the district commissioners and they decide whether or not the request is worth following up on the upgrades. Many times the department is “forced” into upgrading safety gear due to changes in state or OSHA requirements. These upgrades are always taken care of by the district. In the event of a refusal to purchase support equipment or upgrades, the department can do its own purchasing and get the necessary items.

Village residents should realize that through all the decision-making going on at the district level, they have no say in the outcomes. This is because the Village of Margaretville is a separate district and the residents cannot run for commissioner or vote on any referendum put before the residents of the outside district. Consolidation of the districts would give village residents the opportunity to run for commissioner and vote in elections and on referendums for major purchases like new trucks.

I am a resident of the Village of Margaretville and, after considering the options, have the personal opinion that consolidation would benefit the residents in spite of the increase in tax costs. As the fire protection contract issue has evolved over the last five years, there has been virtually no information given to the residents of the village regarding the pros and cons of being under contract. With consolidation, village residents would have an official link to the decisions and workings of the fire protection district, known as Middletown - Hardenburgh #2 Fire District. To me that is worth a few extra dollars on the town tax bill in January.

Mike Porter, President MFD
and village resident