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Rescue Squad protests 2011 budget cuts

Jan 07, 2011 9:42 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="The Greenport Rescue Squad's main facility is located just off Route 23B near the Cedar Park Cemetery. Photo from GRS website."][/caption]The Register Star reports this morning that around half a dozen members of the Greenport Rescue Squad turned out for their town's Wednesday night reorganization meeting to protest cuts in EMS funding for the coming year. Part of the problem, Francesca Olsen writes, is that in 2010, neighboring Claverack paid out $50,000 in total funding to the rescue squads serving the town — half to Greenport Rescue, and half to the now-defunct Philmont Rescue Squad, which ceased operation last November due to financial difficulties. In 2011, the amount going to Greenport Rescue Squad will rise to $35,000 goes to Greenport Rescue Squad... but the squad is saying it had been expecting the whole amount to cover facility and equipment upgrades. Councilman Robert Preusser responded that the board never heard from GRS in writing, expressing their need for the entire $50,000 allocation. What seems to be happening here, when grouped with a growing litany of similar complaints about cuts from public servants and volunteers, is a correction to the anti-government sentiments, and actions, of last year.

“You did make a big commitment stepping up and we appreciate that,” he said.

GRS Deputy Chief Tony Merante said the squad has already opened a Philmont substation to the tune of $22,000.

“We didn’t have to do this at all,” he continued. “We came out here, trying to do the right thing. Now it looks like the town’s not doing the right thing.”

“We met with you — we met face to face,” Merante said. “We didn’t put it in writing. I guess talking face to face meant nothing.”

“We should have communicated better with you guys and vice versa,” Preusser said. “We will work together to make it correct.”

“There’s no sense in you guys coming here to chew us out,” said Councilman Clifford Weigelt. “We don’t have to sit here and get mad at each other.”

Councilman Michael Johnston said that the Philmont Rescue Squad came to the board with their funding issues on three different occasions. “We said, ‘put a plan together,’” he said. “Never once did they come to us...we are open to sit down and discuss this as gentlemen without any problems.”

“We were surprised by this,” Merante said. “I supported coming out here to Philmont ... my surprise is (these cuts) happened without us knowing about it.”

Johnston pointed out that the village of Philmont does not contribute to funding the rescue squad and didn’t contribute to the budget of the Philmont Rescue Squad. “You need to be in front of the village board as well,” he said. “We want the same thing that you want: for the public to be safe.”

The board decided they’d dedicate an evening, probably in March, to address the conflict head-on. “We’re sorry it had to come to this,” Preusser said. The discussion ended amicably.

Also during the meeting (and the reorganization meeting that preceded it), town board workshop meetings were moved to the fourth Monday of every month. Supervisor Robin Andrews announced that Jay Brosseau, chair of the town Planning Board, is retiring — a new chair will be chosen, and the town has received four applications for new planning board members who will be interviewed shortly.

Peter Reiss, chair of the town’s agricultural committee, reported on the ongoing work the committee is doing towards a farmland protection plan. Reiss said they’re looking at different ways to engage farmers and get their input, probably via a survey.

“The emphasis in our message is that agriculture is an economic issue within our town and one of the drivers in our economic plan,” he said. “It’s hard. We want to get something started while farmers are in a quiet time. When spring comes, they’re not going to have time for us.”

Public hearings regarding the Philmont fire district contract and property tax exemptions for senior citizens and the disabled were set for the next town board meeting, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m.

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