The New Paltz Town Board, Village Board and New Paltz Fire Department are currently discussing the creation of a New Paltz Fire District, which would differ from village and town fire departments in its governance. This plan would change the governing body of the new district from general town and village board members to a trained board of commissioners. In this proposed plan, anyone could come forth and train to become a commissioner.
Trained commissioners would have direct knowledge of the fire department, statistics and related affairs. Supporters of the plan believe that this could potentially benefit the community, as this knowledge could contribute to more effective communication between the departments, local political organizations and the public.
According to David Weeks, current chief of the New Paltz Fire Department, this plan would allow “elected people” to govern the fire department instead of the village board.
“[Yet] we have to be able to get the town and village bodies to agree on the decision to make a district,” Weeks said.
According to officials from the fire department, the current split is 60/40 in terms of how the town and village are represented in decisions. If introduced, this new district would change this split to about 50/50, ideally creating a more balanced entity.
According to First Assistant Chief Dylan Babcock, this new district could affect the town’s budget.
“It is possible that our budget will increase, but we will have the ability to tax commercial entities and be able to deal with the tax PILOT program within the village,” Babcock said. “Our taxes will be properly directed to what we need.”
This transition to a fire district would also affect the political system of the department and the department’s budget. However, Weeks, Babcock and Kevin Maguire, former chief of the fire department, all agree that this will not affect their positions or duties.
“This [will not affect] emergency fire response time whatsoever, whether [we] are a fire district or a village fire department,” Babcock said. “It will just change the status of the district.”