Herkimer County fire agencies look into consolidating

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Six fire departments in Herkimer County are the focus of a study that will look into the benefits of consolidating and sharing some services.

"We're at a point where we're too big to be small and too small to be big so we need to look at our options," said Ilion Fire Chief Jim Trevett.

Two years ago, the Herkimer County Fire Advisory Board asked Herkimer County to apply for a grant that would pay for a study. That funding, a $25,000 grant from Homeland Security has been secured.

The fire agencies involved are
- Frankfort Fire Department, a volunteer village department
- Ilion Fire Department, a Career/volunteer village department
- Mohawk Fire Department, a volunteer village department
- Herkimer Fire Department, a career village department
- East Herkimer Fire Department, a volunteer, fire district department
- Little Falls Fire Department, a career city department.

"The study is geared towards seeing if there are any efficiencies working together than we currently do.. and we want to look at the value that we are providing our communities individually," said East Herkimer Fire Chief Ben Keller.

Some of the agencies are volunteer only, meaning they are not staffed 24/7 and the firefighters only come to the station when there is a call. The chiefs are hoping one change the study would bring about is putting a paid firefighter at each department so there is always someone at each firehouse.

"Right now, we're hurting for manpower. We're a combination department with paid and volunteers, where Mohawk, Frankfort, East Herkimer are volunteers. They're really hurting for man power. I have paid guys here 24/7. Mohawk is volunteer, Frankfort is volunteer. There's times they cant muster up three guys to go a fire," said Chief Trevett.

Chief Keller said, "In these economic times, a lot of our folks are working two or three jobs, so their availability to respond to emergencies and to receive the required training is certainly diminished from what it would be years ago."

Right now, all six departments are gathering information that they will give to the consulting agency. Chief Keller said, "They may find it may not be beneficial at all. That maybe we are maximizing our tax dollars. Maybe they will come back with recommendations, that we can certainly look towards implementing if they make sense."

Trevett said that some shared services such as training and equipment are possible. He said, "I just had to buy a new pumper at $300,000. If we were consolidated or sharing, well Frankfort has a new pumper, I wouldn't have to get one."

The Summit Lake Consulting Firm out of Binghamton, which is run by former Utica Fire Chief Frank Mazza will conduct the study. The results are expected to take about four months.

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