By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI
OBSERVER Staff Writer
ARKWRIGHT - The town of Arkwright approved a resolution to have the Sheridan Fire Department cover part of the town fire district, but not without some contention.
OBSERVER photo by Shirley Pulawski
Supervisor Fred Norton, left, and Councilperson Larry Ball cast yes votes to have the Sheridan Fire Department serve nearby areas in Arkwright.
The town has had contracts with Forestville and Cassadaga to cover parts of the town in recent history, but currently, a contract with Forestville hasn't been signed.
Councilperson Randy Shaffer told the board the discussion changed his mind about the decision. "I was in favor of this until I found out we didn't have a contract with Forestville," he explained
Residents and at least three members of the Forestville Fire Department were in the audience, and while they did not identify themselves, they asked many questions and interjected statements throughout the discussions regarding increased costs to the town and what kinds of services would be provided with the new contract.
Among arguments, the board was told entering into a contract with the Sheridan Fire Department would cost the town of Arkwright more money and not provide an equal service, but Supervisor Fred Norton said an upgrade in services would be provided. "They will get paramedics," which have a higher level of training than EMTs.
The board was asked by a resident how often Alstar would be able to respond to emergencies. According to town Norton, 85 percent of calls in Sheridan get Alstar. "They said they have five ambulances, and they said there are times when they might all be taken."
Cardot said who will respond to an emergency depends on the kind of emergency call. "If you break an ankle, or let's say you fell and got hurt, it doesn't necessarily mean you need someone other than an EMT. ... If the call comes in (for a) heart attack, and Alstar can't provide, then Forestville gets called, Cassadaga gets called,
Undeterred by disruptions from the floor, Cardot went on to explain if Alstar is called, if the person being transported is insured, they will have to pay the deductible, but said, "If you live in the Forestville part of the district, or you live in the Cassadaga part, you won't be paying that. ... so it's not an equal service.
"Yes, you will have a co-pay," Norton added, but said not with Medicaid patients. "They won't have to pay."
When asked why Sheridan was being considered for the contract, Norton stated simply, "They are closer. There are portions of our town which we believe should be served by the fire department closest to them which is willing to serve."
After some back and forth from the floor, he repeated, "It's a matter of distance." He added, "The other thing is in my judgment, and I believe in the judgment of others, a paramedic is better to serve our residents than an EMT. ... particularly in heart attack situations."
Norton said he hoped eventually, the county would provide paramedic services throughout the county for heart attacks and other emergencies. "I come from a town which had that, which had six fire departments but had a paramedic crew. ... But that's up to the future and that's up to the county."
For now, Norton said the cost increase associated with a contract with Sheridan and having paramedics to respond was a "judgment call by the board. The question is whether or not that increase in services is worth the cost, and that's subjective." He explained about 27 calls were made last year, and about three or four were for fires. The rest were medical emergencies.
Questions arose regarding off-road capabilities of the Sheridan Fire Department. Cardot said, "Forestville and Cassadaga both have off-road capabilities. Sheridan does not." Norton said his contacts at Sheridan "sat down and looked at (the map) and they have decided they can service those (unpaved) roads."
Cardot disagreed. "They don't have the equipment," he stated. "They don't have off-road services."
Norton countered, "I'm not sure about that. I think they do."
"They don't have the four-wheelers and I think there is a snowmobile," Cardot said of the Forestville department.
"If they don't, then that's when other departments will be called in. That's when mutual aid comes in," Norton explained, and said if they are the first called out, they would "immediately call in the off-road provisions."
Ball had made a brief argument in the form of a question. "Who do you want responding to a fire at your house? The nearest fire department, which is Sheridan," but a Forestville Fire Department member interjected before he finished, "I'm sorry, but you're mistaken. It's not. First, it's Fredonia. Then it's Cassadaga. And under the mutual aid program, they're going to be coming no matter what."
Some discussion surrounded the cost and frequency of calls to Johnson's Adult Home. Other discussion and back and forth between the floor and the board surrounded problems with a contract between Forestville and Arkwright in the past. Some discussion was about the true costs given increases in Forestville and Cassadaga. Ultimately, the resolution passed 3-2, with Norton, Ball and Councilperson Dennis Stephens casting aye votes, and Cardot and Shaffer nay votes.
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