Eagle Point plans to withdraw from CAFD
It was a partnership that lasted 28 years, but that partnership may come to an end between the Cornell Area Fire Department and the Eagle Point Fire Department. Although Eagle Point would continue their membership with the Cornell Area Ambulance Service, the fire department has plans in the works to withdraw from the Cornell Area Fire Department.
A fire board meeting was held June 24, to discuss the matter and get input from all concerned parties. Eagle Point offi cially notified Cornell of their intentions in May.
The Cornell department is made up of the City of Cornell, and the Townships of Eagle Point, Arthur, Birch Creek, Cleveland, Colburn, Estella, Lake Holcombe and Ruby. Eagle Point recently had a reassessment, after questioning having to pay over $900 in annual membership dues (based on equalized valuation), which then increased the dues to more than $3,000.
With that in mind, Eagle Point would like to use their annual dues for their own department, as they have seen an increase in membership and equipment inventory.
“We’re trying to keep our expenses to a minimum,” said Randy Woodruff, Town of Eagle Point vice chairman. “We’re looking for options here.”
Mike Beighley, Town of Cleveland chairman, asked what the time factor is for Eagle Point’s department arriving at the scene of a call, as opposed to response time from Cornell’s station.
“It depends on who’s closer,” said Eagle Point Fire Chief Rocky Berg. “I’ve never timed it with anything.”
“To me, that is a huge factor,” said Beighley.
Woodruff says all the departments around have mutual aid agreements, so there is no way to prove who can reach something such as a structure fire fastest, what with weather conditions and road construction.
“It’s a fair question,” admitted Woodruff.
After withdrawing, Eagle Point plans to pay Cornell on a per call basis if their help is needed.
“What are we talking per call?” asked Cornell Fire Department assistant chief Matt Boulding.
Berg says Eagle Point would pay $250 per call, per hour, which is not the full rate of a call. So, under their mutual aid agreement, those townships belonging to the Cornell Area Fire Department would have to “eat” the cost of the call, according to Boulding. Despite that, Boulding says the department would still go and render whatever aid is needed.
“The people are the No. 1 priority,” said Boulding.
Berg agreed and says the aid works both ways.
“We’re gonna come help you guys if you call,” said Berg.
Boulding asked who is in charge on calls and Berg said it’s whoever the chief is who gets there first. Boulding says he and the department have nothing against Berg, or the Eagle Point department.
“You’ve brought it up top notch,” said Boulding.
Woodruff also said Eagle Point has nothing against Cornell’s department and that they have appreciated the support over the years.
Getting back to numbers, Cornell Fire Chief Denny Klass says Eagle Point’s share of annual dues is 1.6 percent of Cornell’s annual budget.
“It seems to me that the responsibility to your residents… far exceeds the money we’re talking about,” said Ronnie Arts, Town of Birch Creek chairman.
Berg says to his way of thinking, it makes a difference for the money factor, as his department is only serving Eagle Point, whereas Cornell currently serves many townships.
Arts asked what Eagle Point residents think of dissolving the membership. Letters were sent out in March, informing residents of the proposed withdrawal, and Berg says while a few came before the town board, they were “up in the air” both ways.
Pauline Spiegel, town board supervisor and Eagle Point resident (living 9.2 miles from Cornell, and 9.5 miles from Eagle Point), says she has trust and confidence in the Eagle Point department. She added that it is a tough decision.
“I see both sides,” said Spiegel.
Klass said he thinks the matter is getting blown out of proportion.
“I guess the main important thing, is the people that we’re serving, to give them the best protection we can,” said Klass.
Fire board president Aimee Korger mentioned that residents affected in the Eagle Point service area, could see an increase in homeowners insurance rates.
“Has that been taken into consideration at all, if they’re no longer as close to a fire department?” she asked.
Berg says it depends on individual insurance companies whether rates go up and has nothing to do with the radius of a fire department.
“It doesn’t really affect a lot of stuff anymore,” said Berg of the proximity.
Ray Carothers, president of the ambulance board, tried to come up with a way to have Eagle Point remain as part of Cornell’s department.
“What if we leave it at $900, like it has been, at least for another year?” said Carothers of the dues.
Korger says because the dues are part of the department’s budget for the year, another township(s) would have to pick up the slack.
Brian Guthman, Town of Lake Holcombe, says Lake Holcombe pays in $52,000 already to be part of the department and that he doesn’t think $3,000 is out of line for Eagle Point.
“It’s just too bad it came down to the dollar signs,” said Boulding.
Woodruff said all townships have the struggle of coming up with money.
“We’re always fighting the bottom dollar,” said Woodruff.
“It boils down to, what’s fair for one township, has to be fair for every township in this organization,” said Klass.
The fire board’s bylaws don’t specify if they direct Eagle Point on whether to withdraw from the department or not.
“It is up to that township to say, we are done,” said Korger.
Eagle Point will vote on the matter at the regular July board meeting, and if plans go through, will inform the fire board by Aug. 1, in conformance to a 15-month written notice requirement.[caption id="attachment_71016" align="alignnone" width="300"] Town of Eagle Point vice chairman Randy Woodruff (standing) addressed the Cornell Fire Board June 24, on the matter of Eagle Point’s intention to withdraw from the Cornell Area Fire Department. Few residents of Eagle Point were present, although a letter had been sent out to those in the most affected area, asking people to voice their opinions at the open meeting. Photo by Ginna Young[/caption]