Safety First, New Paltz!

Editorial Cartoon, Issue 2 by Derek ZimmermannAs students concerned with the safety of both the Town and Village of New Paltz, we are strongly in favor of the joint fire district. The New Paltz Fire Department should go district in order to benefit the entire community. Safety should always be first priority and the firefighters are working hard to ensure that all of New Paltz is prepared for emergency situations.

If the New Paltz Fire Department went district it would be run by a publicly elected board of fire commissioners to manage the department, represent taxpayers and set the yearly budget. The board of fire commissioners is trained in fire district management and fire operations, whereas the Village Board of Trustees is not. This is important because they are not just trained to be administrators; it would be more efficient for the department to be under the authority of other officials.

Anything that is not an emergency has to be pre-approved. It is aggravating for firefighters, who are volunteering their time, to have politics interfering in their operations.

The firefighters work tirelessly to protect the residents of both the village and the town, for no pay. Last year, they responded to more than 700 calls from the town, village and the New Paltz campus in addition to providing standbys at the firehouse during severe snowstorms, thunderstorms or inclement weather. They make sure the roads are safe to drive on, they remove fallen trees and if there is a flood they provide water rescue. Firefighters do so much more than just put out fires. When the power goes out they can be at the firehouse for hours waiting to respond to calls. Fire prevention programs are also conducted by the fire department, where they inform the schools and public about safety. The fire department’s labor is completely volunteer-based and will remain that way if it joins the district, but the number of volunteers under the department cannot sustain itself and has decreased from about 60 to 30.

If the department went district there would be funding to get a new firehouse through grants from the state or homeland security. It is ridiculous that four fire trucks are crammed into a building that only has space for three. It makes it difficult for them to get in and out of the firehouse, delaying time that could be spent on saving lives.

Some taxpayers are concerned that if the fire department goes district they will have to pay more. Village residents will actually save money based on assessed evaluation of the town, which is three times larger. They would only pay 25 percent of the total cost of taxes, a 50 percent decrease from what they are paying now. The fire district will not be able to increase their budget for two years, but when they do, it would have to be doubled to bring village residents back to the level they are currently paying.

Firefighters save our lives every day. They need new equipment, they need a new firehouse and they need our support. By going district, they will get everything that is necessary to ensure that New Paltz is a safe place to live.