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Sardinia Town Board and fire department reach an impasse

SARDINIA — Negotiations between the town of Sardinia and its fire department have stalled. Town leaders are now questioning their next move, as 2012 draws to a close.

The board heard an update on the situation, during its meeting held Oct. 11.

Faced with the adverse economic climate that is affecting most cities and towns throughout the country, the town has proposed a decrease in funding for 2013.

The town currently pays $201,108 each year for fire protection, which is comprised of a $154,537 base amount for operational costs and additional costs like snow plowing. Town Supervisor Mary Hannon said the town has been paying a 3 percent increase during the last five years.

“It’s not something we want to do,” she said, during the meeting, about attempts to lower the fire protection monetary amount for 2013.

Hannon said the last time the town and fire officials met was Aug. 6, but there has been no dialogue, since then. Should talks fail, the town has budgeted the same amount for 2013, which would prevent any disruption in services.

Hannon said she and the board members are aware of how this issue could put a strain between the two entities. “We don’t want to upset the cart,” she said, adding that the board has examined other area departments comparable in size to Sardinia’s and discovered that these other entities pay less than what Sardinia does.

Hannon said that, while the fire department is facing a difficult economic climate like everyone else, there are questions about the approximately $190,000 the department has, in a money market fund.

Part of the negotiations is a proposal to build a new fire hall, which would essentially replace the three existing stations. The hall would also serve as a community center for senior citizens. The town would build the hall, and lease it to the department. In that case, the fire department would have to sell its existing three stations.

Hannon said the fire department could retain the money from the sale and use it as representatives see fit. “As our seniors age, and they are, obviously, we see a great need for this type of thing,” she said. “But we still want to do this right, by getting public input.”

Town Attorney Linda Joseph said it appears that fire officials aren’t coming back to the negotiating table – at least, not this year. “That’s unfortunate,” she added.

Hannon said, “We do want to work with the department and make this work.”

In the meantime, a committee will conduct an exit poll on election day about the fire hall and community center concept.

The fire department is made up of volunteers, with approximately 42 active firemen serving.

Fire Chief Mike Shaw could not be reached for comment.

In other news, the board:
– Opened two bids for the proposed new town hall septic system. One bid, from Ronald Miller, was for approximately $16,478, more than $10,000 less than the other bid. The board voted to accept the bid, but only after further review by Joseph.

– Approved a proposed fee schedule for building/code enforcement. There were several increases. For a complete listing, visit www.erie.gov/sardinia.

– Approved the use of the town hall on Oct. 31 for the Chaffee-Sardinia Kiwanis Halloween party.

– Approved a liquor license for Ronald Hawk, who operates Chaffee Flats Bar and Grill at 10945 Route 16.

– Approved a request from the town’s senior citizens, to contribute to the cost of their annual Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 15 at 12:30 p.m. at Holland Willows. Waste Management will contribute $5 per person. The town’s payment to Holland Willows is not to exceed $850.

– Approved Arcade Express Soccer Club’s request to install a U10 soccer field at the Sardinia Veteran’s Park for club use, and for the public, at other times. The club will be responsible for the layout and lining of the field and the town will be responsible for mowing and seeding.

– Approved a request from the Enchanted Mountain Girl Scouts, will use the kitchen area of the town hall for their holiday Desserts for Meals on Wheels event Nov. 17.

The next board meeting will be held Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m., following a public hearing at 6 on a proposed zoning amendment that will permit the mining of sand and gravel on land within the town.
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