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Many taxpayers pleased with proposed Oriskany, Whitesboro fire department consolidation

By ANNA MEILER

WHITESBORO, N.Y. (WKTV) -- The fire departments in Oriskany and Whitesboro have discussed consolidating for years, but this is the closest they've come.

"Quite frankly from a village standpoint if we don't look into shared services or consolidation of services, villages simply will not be able to sustain the current level of government they're at," said Patrick O'Connor, mayor of the Village of Whitesboro.

A merged fire district will protect residents in the villages of Oriskany, Whitesboro and portions of the Town of Whitestown and the proposed plan will bring all those residents' fire tax down to 94 cents per thousand.

"This is going to equalize what each resident that receives the service is going to pay," said O'Connor.

Merging departments also means creating a single fleet of 116 volunteer firefighters, increasing manpower and protection for residents.

"We're going to be able to provide additional personnel. As people know it's very difficult to get volunteers these days so a merger will provide that much more availability," said Donald Rothdiener, mayor of the Village of Oriskany.

It will also bulk up protection against workers compensation cases.

"If there was a major claim, it would cripple some of the financial parts of just the villages. The town residents wouldn't be affected by it at all, so this will share the load of that responsibility," said Jeff Burkhart, fire chief for the Village of Oriskany Fire Dept.

Many of the residents in attendance at the public meeting say they're on board.

"The state mandates, the federal mandates all those kinds of things put the most burden on small communities and the taxpayers and we just keep being asked to give more and more and there's just no more to give. So, things have to be done differently, we can't keep doing things the same way," said Carol Gowens, a resident in the Village of Whitesboro.

"This will definitely be a tax saving to the district. It will definitely be an enhancement to the current services of the fire departments as they'll be sharing equipment, it will certainly increase man power responding to calls. I see no disadvantages to this at all," said Glenn Block, a resident in the Village of Oriskany.

After hearing public comments the town and village boards may modify the proposal. If they pass a resolution moving the merger forward, the residents affected by the consolidated fire district will get the final say with a vote.

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