In 2016 the Philipstown Town Board gave up its responsibilities for provision of fire protection in Garrison and transferred them to a new authority called the Garrison Fire District. The board appointed five commissioners and prepared and levied the taxes for 2016, but the district would thereafter raise the taxes and arrange for fire protection.
The appointed commissioners increased the taxes to be raised for 2017 by 28 percent over those approved by the Town Board for 2016. (In a remarkable show of public interest, two commissioners were then voted out of office.) The taxes raised have continued at the increased level and for 2020 are more than 30 percent greater than those for 2016.
As a newly elected commissioner in 2017 (my term ends this year), I learned that in 2016 the appointed commissioners (four of whom were members of the fire company) had signed a five-year contract with the entirely separate nonprofit Garrison Fire Co. to pay $24,000 in “rent” for an office at the firehouse, increasing by 2 percent per year. This is flabbergasting because the district is responsible to pay for all costs of providing fire protection. This includes paying the mortgage on the building, repairs and maintenance, leases of equipment and utilities.
So far, roughly $125,000 has been paid to the private company from the taxes raised while the district has paid every cost of providing fire protection.
Now, the commissioners (two of whom are members of the fire company) have voted 4-1 to sign another five-year contract to continue paying rent with 2 percent annual increases. Mine was the only “no” vote.
Why are we paying rent to a nonprofit organization for a tiny office in a building that the taxpayers built and continue to maintain?
Stan Freilich, Garrison