Holbrook Fire District
Board of Fire Commissioners
Commissioner Joel Vetter
(Chairman Of The Board)
Commissioner Charles Vermilyea
(Vice Chair of The Board)
Commissioner Mike Barhold
Commissioner Joseph Williams
Commissioner Mike Tarantino
District Manager Thomas Pelio
District Treasurer / Secretary Ron Schnall
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District meetings are held on the first Thursday following the second Tuesday of the month and the last Tuesday of each month.
History of The Holbrook Fire District
In July 1932, formal notice was submitted to town officials for a hearing on the proposal to create a fire district. On September 21 of that year, after the creation of the fire district, the property and equipment of the volunteer fire company was reassigned to the newly elected Board of Fire Commissioners.Our first fire commissioners were, as per the original resolution: Henry Heine, Chairman; Fred Benesch, Sr., Vice Chairman; Charles Gearing, Secretary; John Wesemann, Gustave Johnson, and George Raff. Their first meeting was on the evening of Thursday,September 1, 1932 at the firehouse. The Board of Fire Commissioners prepared a budget for 1932-33, to be submitted to the legal voters at a meeting to be held Wednesday evening, September 14, 1932, as follows;
1. -$150.00 for repairs and maintenance.
2. -$200.00 for equipment and supplies.
3. -$60.00 for light and fuel.
4. -$50.00 for stationary, election expense and miscellaneous items.
What is a fire district?
A fire district is a separate unit of local government that is established for the purpose of providing fire protection and response to emergencies. A fire district need not have its own firefighters or equipment; it can contract with a neighboring municipality or district.
Fire districts are not necessarily coterminous with towns. They may span several towns or portions of towns, and a town may contain parts of multiple fire districts. In addition, the governing boards of one or more towns and one or more villages may form a joint fire district. If a joint district is formed, the municipal governing boards must adopt a local law dissolving any existing fire, fire alarm or fire protection districts contained within the joint fire district. A fire district is created, extended, or dissolved by a town board. However, such changes must be at the request of a majority of the fire district commissioners or land-owning resident taxpayers of the district, and is subject to permissive referendum. Details on how such changes may occur are in the Department of State’s publication on fire protection consolidation.
A fire district is overseen by an elected board of commissioners composed of five members serving five year terms. (The fire commissioners in joint fire districts may be elected or appointed.) The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) reports that there are 867 fire districts, an increase of 20 districts in the past 20 years. The commissioners appoint the members of the fire companies within the fire district, and may provide for the removal of those members for cause. They also organize, operate, maintain and equip fire companies.
GOOD GOVERNANCE LAWS
Capital Reserve Accounts
This bill became law on January 1, 2007. The OSC in its publication entitled “Financial Information for Fire District Officials”, has one chapter set aside for reserve accounts. This law amends Section 6-g as it presently exists in the General Municipal Law so as to require that any resolution of the Board of Fire Commissioners authorizing the establishment of a reserve fund shall not take effect until a proposition has been submitted to the qualified electors residing within the district. The resolution and notice to the electors shall contain an abstract of such resolution concisely stating the purposes and effect thereof. The fire district secretary shall prepare such abstract with the advise of the attorney for the fire district, and forthwith transmit that proposition to the Board of Fire Commissioners in the form in which it shall be submitted at such annual or special election of such fire district. Expenditures from the reserve fund shall continue to be subject to a permissive referendum. This amendment to the present 6-g will require additional duties and place additional responsibilities on the Secretary relative to notification of the availability of a permissive referendum.
Fire Districts Special Elections
This law took effect July 26, 2006. This law amends the Town Law of the State of New York. Specifically, subdivision 3 of Section 179 would be amended so that all special elections in fire districts would be conducted on a Tuesday provided that such date is not a public holiday and shall be conducted and scheduled in a manner that maximizes voter participation. As voters of the State of New York and of the United States, we have become accustomed to holding all elections on Tuesdays. Tuesdays have almost become a National day of election. Fire districts are required to hold their annual elections of their Commissioners on the second Tuesday in December. By restricting special elections in fire districts to Tuesdays, it will provide more transparency to the governance issues of fire districts. The requirement of the statute is that it would be conducted so as to maximize voter participation. To maximize voter participation, it would be anticipated that Boards of Fire Commissioners would post notices of their elections on their bulletin boards outside the firehouse if they have one, on any signs that they may have outside of the firehouse and on their website if they have one.
Audits of Fire Districts
This law took effect July 26, 2006 for districts with revenues of $1 million dollars or more in 2007, Districts with revenue of $500,000 or more in 2008 and with districts with revenue less than $500,000 beginning in 2009. This law amends both the Town Law and the General Municipal Law to require fire districts with annual budgets in excess of $200,000 to have an annual audit of its records by an independent CPA or independent public accountant. Copies of the report shall be filed with both the Town in which the fire district is located and with the New York State Comptroller’s Office. It shall be furnished within 180 days after the end of the fiscal year of the district. Districts with budgets of less than $200,000 shall report the district’s financial conditions and resources to the New York State Comptroller’s Office on a form prescribed by him/her. This portion of the new legislation is very similar to what already happens. Fire districts shall also be required to request proposals for the conducting of such annual audits. This law requires that new RFP’s be solicited every five (5) years. The statue also requires that the district file a corrective action plan in response to any findings contained in the annual external audit. This, once again, is very similar to what is already required.
Fire Districts Code of Ethics
This law takes effect June 1, 2007. This law will require Boards of Fire District Commissioners to adopt a Code of Ethics. Presently, Boards of Fire Commissioners who are elected officials are subject to conflict of interest statutes as set out in Article 18 of the General Municipal Law. There is a directive that the Office of the State Comptroller prepare a model Code of Ethics which those Boards who do not wish to draft their own could adopt. This model code is available on OSC’s website. www.osc.state.ny.us
This law took effect January 1, 2007. This law amends the Town Law requiring fire districts to hold public hearings before submitting their budgets to the Town. It amends specifically Section 105 of the Town Law to add a new subparagraph 3 requiring that fire districts conduct a public hearing on the third Tuesday in October after appropriate notices. At such hearing, any person may be heard in favor of or against the proposed budget as compiled. This law does not require public votes on fire district budgets.
Notice Procedures – Hearings and Elections
This law took effect January 1, 2007. This law amends the Town Law in relation to the posting of notices of hearing and elections in fire districts. Notices of all public hearings and elections will need to be posted on the fire district’s website if one exists and on any sign board that the fire district might maintain. A copy of the notice shall also be forwarded to the Town or Towns in which the fire district exists so that it can also be posted on the Town’s website if one exists. Fire districts are presently required under the Open Meetings Law to notify all members of the public as to any meetings. The requirement that the notice also be posted on the website and on any sign boards that may be in front of the fire district or on the Town’s website is just an extension of the requirement under the Open Meetings Law.
Fire Commissioner Mandatory Training
This law took effect January 1, 2007. This law amends the Town Law to require Fire District Commissioners to undergo mandatory training. The Association of Fire Districts has had a long history of providing training to Fire District Commissioners, Secretaries and Treasurers. During the course of the last five years, the Association of Fire Districts in conjunction with the New York State Comptroller’s Office has conducted eight teleconferences. In addition, there have been five annual meetings and five annual workshops at which various topics have been presented including discussions relative to travel, budgets, Open Meetings Law, etc. This law is an extension of that training concept and requires the State Comptroller to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to implement this training curriculum.
LOSAP – OSC to Obtain and Disclose Provider Information on Website
This law took effect January 22, 2007. This law requires the administrators of Service Award Programs to provide to the State Comptroller information to be placed on the Comptrollers website relative to the cost of their various programs including fees and commissions, the rate of return for the past one, three, five and ten year periods, the length of time that the company has been in business, information regarding management stability, description of investment structure, statement of the investment philosophy and a list of all the representatives and relationships to any program sponsor.
LOSAP – OSC to Administer Parallel Program
This law takes effect June 1, 2007. This law creates an optional state administered volunteer firefighters service award program under rules promulgated by the OSC. It would not be a state take over of existing programs but creates another option for fire districts.