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Fire dept. criticizes Fonda board

December 5, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA - The village volunteer fire department released a letter Tuesday criticizing the Village Board.

In the letter, the volunteers were critical of the board for allegedly moving to dissolve the department without talking to the firefighters.

"The members of The Fonda Fire Department feel highly disrespected that after 139 years of serving the community we would be abolished without even a voice in the matter," the letter said. "Our current disagreement with the village board is a result of their continued refusal to collaborate with our leadership on matters regarding the department's budget, fundraising, and in this most recent case, our very existence," the letter said.

In November, Mayor Bill Peeler said the current budget for the village fire department is roughly $43,000 a year, which is about 7.17 percent of the village's budget. If the village is covered by Mohawk's fire department, it would cost somewhere around $22,000 a year.

"We have been blindsided by the village and the board." Donald Wagoner, the chief of the village's fire department, said.

The letter, according to Wagoner, was to voice the concerns he and the other members have. Wagoner said they feel they have been disrespected by the dissolution resolution, which he said is already written.

"The mayor feels that there is no way the fire department could be viable," Wagoner said.

The letter also said village fire officials originally proposed the idea of merging the two departments.

"The Village Board decided at that time that instead of pursuing a Mohawk/Fonda consolidation, we would be maintaining separate departments," the letter said.

"The mayor and the Board of Trustees made a valid point in their argument for sharing the town of Mohawk's fire protection with the village of Fonda. Sharing resources between the village and the town makes sense economically, and in that spirit, we believe the village should strive to consolidate as many services as they can," the letter said.

Wagoner said the future of the village department must wait on the contract, written by the town of Mohawk's fire commissioner. He said depending on the contract, there may still be a place for the village's volunteer firefighters. However, they also may have to find new volunteer positions.

The next Village Board meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Hall and is open to the public.

"This decision will have a lasting impact on all the fire department members, as well as the village residents and taxpayers, and should not be taken lightly," the letter said.

Peeler and the trustees were unavailable for comment.



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