District expected to be organized in January
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board on Thursday (Oct. 1) selected five Garrison residents to serve as commissioners to supervise the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company through a proposed, autonomous Garrison Fire District, expected to be launched in January.
The board named Nat Prentice, David Brower, Joe Mercurio, who currently serves as GVFC information officer, Rodney Tudor, a former GVFC chief, and Sandy Bohl, a GVFC firefighter and the only woman of the five. One related position remains vacant – that of Fire District treasurer.
In making the announcement, the Town Board acknowledged the infeasibility of its original plan to form the Fire District immediately so the commissioners could set the company’s 2016 budget, which must be finalized by this fall. The commission would replace the Town Board as the government entity charged with managing the GVFC.
Although it named the commissioners, the board did not formally appoint them or create the Fire District, with those votes left for a future meeting.
The appointments, made by the board during its monthly meeting at Town Hall, followed hearings in August and September at which some residents backed the formation of a Fire District while others criticized the concept itself or the push to move ahead in the fall, only a couple of months after the public discussion began.
Ultimately, those urging a slower pace won.
Councilor John Van Tassel, who led the Town Board’s review, said it would postpone the formation of the district and the dissolution of the current arrangement until Jan. 2. The delay means that the town will once again handle the GVFC budget for 2016 and the new commissioners will prepare the 2017 budget. The latter budget “will not be held to the [state-mandated] 2 percent cap” on tax hikes, Van Tassel noted.
Supervisor Richard Shea, who earlier had advocated getting the district in place this year, said the board realized the schedule was too tight after hearing from members of the public and prospective commissioners. “We’re still going to get things done in short order,” he said, even with a January transition.
Eleven Garrison residents volunteered for the commission, and Town Board members praised all as worthy choices whose abilities made the selection process more difficult. Van Tassel said he believes the five selected “sincerely want the Garrison fire department to succeed and that is very important to the chief [Jim Erickson, who attended the meeting] and the members of the fire department.”
Van Tassel added: “It’s more than just the finances. These people came in enthusiastic about fundraising, about morale, about bringing in membership, about understanding the equipment, knowing what’s there [and] what we need versus what we want.”
The appointees will serve one-year terms, after which the commissioners will be elected by Fire District voters.