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Voters abolish Prospect Fire Department, Chief plans legal action

By NICOLE PITT

PROSPECT, N.Y. (WKTV) - Residents in the Village of Prospect voted to abolish the fire department Tuesday night.

The turnout for the vote was extremely high, with 128 votes cast. There are only 291 residents in the village and that number includes children.

There were 82 residents that voted to abolish the department compared to 46 residents who wanted to keep it intact.

The Oneida County Sheriff's Department is patrolling the area of the fire department overnight making sure no one attempts to go in the building. At 8:05 Wednesday morning, the locks of the doors of the fire department will be changed. The 16 members of the fire department will most likely be escorted into the building to retrieve their belongings.

Mayor Fran Righi says all of the assets inside the building will be sold to try and prevent the village from going bankrupt. An expert will be in to assess the value of the assets inside the fire house. The village is still in danger of dissolving because of a worker's compensation case.

Chief Wayne Premo is challenging the legality of the vote and many other things. He is ready to take action.

"It's like losing a family member tonight," said Chief Premo. "It's very hard. It's upsetting." Premo has been chief for 18 years.

"I think that common sense overruled emotion tonight," said Mayor Righi. "And most of the residents in this village understand that a fire company for a village as small as Prospect is no longer an option."

"It's not over," said Premo. "It's not a threat in anyway. I strongly believe in the fire company and I strongly believe that it needs to be here. I think there was a lot of misleading by numbers and things that were thrown out there and I just don't think the people had all of the right information."

"It's a sad fact of life, but we just can not afford the liability if another one (worker's compensation case)comes down the pike," said Righi. "We're done."

Premo says the village does not have the right to the equipment inside the department.

"We are incorporated. The fire house and all of our trucks are deeded to the Prospect Fire Company Inc.," said Premo. "In a lot of cases the village would have a right to come after that stuff but being that they paid us such a small amount over the years. We really paid everything from contract monies and monies that we went out and sweat for."

Premo says the village paid the fire department about $3000 every year but the department had to turn around and pay the village for things like snow removal.

"I've already been on the phone with our lawyer and we will start our next step tomorrow morning," said Premo.

"They can bring it," said Righi. "We've got lawyers too."

"It's not even going to be a quick fix. There's a few dollars now. If they get the money that belongs to the fire department corporation it will help to pay it down but we had a meeting last night with the comp board and their lawyers and this case is never gonna go away. It's being said by more than just me that technically the village should of thought about dissolving themselves right away and I think you're going to see that right down the line. The town of Trenton is very eager to take the village under the town as just a hamlet," said Premo.

In the meantime, the Oneida County 911 center has already been notified of the results of the vote. The Remsen and Barneveld Fire Department's will cover Prospect's fire district.

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