After the public turnout, the Village of NY retains its paid firefighter post

Andy Gardner
Watertown daily times

POTSDAM, NY — Village Trustee and Mayor Reinhold J. “Ron” Tischler say they will retain four paid firefighter positions after one of the drivers retires.

They spoke about the matter after members of the public, including volunteer firefighters, a state MP, the director of Potsdam’s housing office and a teacher’s assistant union leader, appeared at Monday night’s meeting and told the board that the elimination of the post would harm public safety would endanger . After making their comments, the elected officials said they would all support keeping the position.

Robert Pierce will retire on August 19 after 33 years with the Potsdam Fire Department.  He is hired as a replacement.

Robert Pierce will retire on August 19 after 33 years with the Potsdam Fire Department. He is hired as a replacement. (Photo/Potsdam fire brigade)

Robert Pierce will retire on August 19 after 33 years with the department. Later in the meeting, the board passed a motion recognizing his resignation “with regret.”

Chris A. Taylor, a Potsdam volunteer firefighter and former chief, told trustees that the paid drivers are often the first to respond to a scene, often within two or three minutes. That’s because they have fewer volunteers, and those that do often take a little longer to respond than the paid drivers on standby at the fire station. He says that an initial quick response is crucial as a fire can spread quickly.

“There is a big problem. People don’t understand the growth and development of fire,” he said. “One of the first things[that’s said after a building fire]is, ‘I never thought it would happen so quickly.'”

“Paid firefighters are a critical part of protection in this community,” Taylor added. “They’re something I wouldn’t want to be without.”

St. Lawrence County Assemblyman Margaret I. Haggard, D-Potsdam, told the board that she understands how quickly a fire can spread and how a quick fire department response can save lives. Her sister died in a house fire on Lawrence Avenue years ago. She said the paid driver position is critical to protecting the community.

“We owe them a forever debt of gratitude. We’re not willing to risk that again,” she said. “Please keep the paid fire department as the citizens of our village depend on this service and we must do everything we can to support our heroes in fire and rescue.”

Robert T. Santamoor, executive director of Potsdam’s housing authority, said there had been some close encounters in their homes where a slower response could have led to a tragic outcome.

“We’ve had a couple of incidents where a minute or two makes a big difference in response time,” he said. “If we were to take that person out of the budget, it could have been a disastrous difference … I want you to really reconsider that, too.”

John L. Collins, a teaching assistant on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services at Potsdam High School and president of the Teacher Assistant Union, said he felt the village “goes over a dollar to fetch a nickel.”

“Long response times can be dangerous and even deadly,” he said. “We need these drivers ready when the calls come in.”

Following the comments, members of the village council said they all supported filling the position of firefighter. You mentioned that the idea of ​​reducing jobs through turnover usually comes up when people retire or quit to reduce the tax burden. Everyone said it wasn’t the right solution for this position.

“Money is in the budget for a new driver this year, budget 2022-23,” Tischler said. “I’ve always been a really strong supporter of fire, safety and rescue… I fully support filling this position.”

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce our tax deficit through attrition. That was the starting point for this conversation,” said Trustee Abby D. Lee. “Public safety and service come first.”

“My takeaway message is a slight sense of concern that the number of volunteers is declining,” said Trustee Monique M. Tirion. “We couldn’t keep this village safe without you. Yes, I support the fourth driver.”

“That was a moot point early in the conversation. We would never do anything about it if we didn’t pay a fourth driver,” said Trustee Stephen J. Warr. “In my opinion, we will always hire them. I support the attitude anyway.”

Trustee Alexandra M. Jacobs-Wilke was excused from the meeting. Tischler told the board he had spoken to her and that she also supports funding for the firefighter position.

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