The City of Batavia should seriously consider replacing the Batavia Fire Department with either an all volunteer, or partial volunteer force, Council President Charlie Mallow suggested during tonight's City Council meeting.
UPDATE: Audio of Mallow's speech provided by WBTA.
His call to have Jason Molino prepare a report on the idea before the council's next conference meeting met with broad support from the other council members, with at least five members backing his thinking and none of the rest raising an objection.
"We live in a city of 16,000 people with a fully funded fire department," Mallow said. "That is probably the most unusual thing you can come across. Our taxpayers are taking a pounding for $3.5 million that 16,000 people have to pay for every year. Can you imagine what we can do -- the town fire department is a little over $1 million -- what we could do with $2.5 million? We could fix their sidewalks in this city. Maybe we could fix our roads without begging for more from the state.
"It's going to take real leadership, because I tell ya, we all know what it took to get rid of that ambulance service and there's still people with signs up even though that issue has long since passed
"Speaking as somebody who is about the fly the coup, it's going to take somebody on this council or the next council to step up and do the right thing no matter how many signs people put up or how many phone calls they make."
Council woman Marianne Clattenburg immediately followed with a "Here, here."
Bill Cox, Bob Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian all expressed support for Mallow's call for Molino to study up on the issue and prepare a report.
The discussion came in the middle of an agenda item about the car allowance for the city's fire chief, which was an issue put on the agenda by Cox.
"I don't want to argue about $4,000," Mallow said. "I want to argue about $2.5 million."
Cox said now is the time to act on the proposal, while the city's fire department is being run by an interim chief, so that the position wouldn't be changed in the middle of the term of a permanent chief.
The fire fighters union is already claiming a Taylor Law violation because the city voted to eliminate the city's ambulance service, and asked after the meeting if this latest proposal might really run afoul of the Taylor Law, Mallow said, "I've found that your best thing to do is just do the right thing. We did the right thing with the ambulance service and we got complaints because we did the right thing."
As for the car allowance, Molino said he is going to recommend to both the police and fire chiefs that they forgo the city's stipend and use a city vehicle for official business.
Molino explained that the city's employee handbook gives the chiefs the option of an allowance or a city-provided vehicle or a stipend, but after talking with an insurance carrier, the idea of chiefs using personal vehicles for official business should be a grave concern.
If the chiefs were in an accident, even though on official duty, while driving a personal vehicle, their personal insurance company would be the first line of liability. In a serious scenario, the mount of damages could greatly exceed the personal liability coverage.
"I don't think it's good policy to have our city employees at risk of losing everything they've worked their whole lives earning," Molino said.
Both departments have vehicles available -- especially for the fire department once the ambulance service is terminated -- that the chiefs could use and take home to be available in emergencies.