The Town of Owego Fire District is planning to spend an estimated $1.1 million on a new fire station following its decision to end its shared services contract with the Village of Owego Fire Department.
The Campville Fire Department — one of two departments within the Town of Owego Fire District — will need the new station to provide protection for 15 square miles of town land now covered by the village fire department. The town will become responsible for that area’s fire protection when the contract with the village expires, according to Walter Jones, president of the Town of Owego Fire District Commissioners.
Jones said the town fire district expects to open the new Campville station before the contract expires next summer. The new station will be located near the Tioga County Jail.
Ending the contract with the Village of Owego Fire Department will save the town fire district enough money in the long term to absorb the cost of building the new station, Jones said.
The town fire district currently pays about $135,000 a year to the village under the contract, which is set to expire July 31, 2015.
But Village of Owego Fire Chief Daniel Gavin said the amount that the village charges is determined by the number of calls it responds to in the contracted coverage area. The costs of fuel and wear on equipment are also added to the charges. So while the town fire district’s payments to the village will end once the contract does, the costs of responding to calls in the area will shift to the Campville Fire Department when it takes over coverage, he said.
Gavin said some of the geographic logistics about the coverage plan are worrisome, as is the risk that the station won’t be ready when the contract ends.
“It all comes down to, ‘Is the public getting the care that they need and the best care that we can provide to them?'” Gavin said. “And currently, yes, they are.”
Gavin, a resident of the village, added that departments should be thinking about how to consolidate services to save money rather than how to expand.
The new Campville fire station will be built on 11 acres across from the Guthrie medical clinic on Route 38, under Town of Owego Fire District plans. That station will be responsible for covering an area north of the village that is now covered under the current contract with the village fire department. Town land south of the village that is now covered by the village fire department will be covered by the Southside Fire Company — the other department in the town fire district — once the contract expires.
The planned location of the new Campville fire station makes sense because it is centrally located in the northern contract area and is on a major roadway, said Bruce Dale, one of five town fire district commissioners.
The $1.2 million that the spending plan proposes to collect in taxes exceeds the state’s property tax cap, but the fire district commissioners can vote to override that cap with a two-thirds majority vote.
The fire district budget is separate from the town’s budget, and the town board and supervisor have no say over what is included in it or what the bottom line is, Town of Owego Supervisor Donald Castellucci Jr. said.
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